After a week spent in the crunchy snow and shiver-inducing temperatures of the Midwest, my winter boots got plenty of use. When it came to packing them for my trip back to Goyang, South Korea, I nearly left them behind, thinking of the snowless streets I had left behind only days earlier. Over-packer that I am, I jammed them in my suitcase just to be safe, and by Monday, I was glad to have them. Christmas day brought a light dusting of snow, leaving about 2 inches of packed powder to derail my rolling suitcase on the sidewalks, but little more than that. As I woke up, jet-lagged and groggy, on Monday, I looked out the window and thought, “Is it snowing?” And snowing it was. A lot. And the flakes didn’t just make an appearance in the morning, but consistently fell in a white flurry all throughout the day.
With a frosty blanket covering the city, people seemed to be at once playfully giddy at the novelty of all the white stuff and absolutely at a loss as to how to deal with it. By the time evening fell on Monday, 10 inches (26 centimeters) worth of little white flakes had dropped from the sky to pile on sidewalks and drape over tree boughs. When I say piled, I don’t mean neatly pushed to the side of the road or away from storefront doorways. No, apparently the Korean approach to snow is to do just about nothing to effectively disturb it. Not one plow cleared the way as cars crept by on snow-covered roads. I had one or two rare shovel spottings, but dustpans and brooms seem to be the preferred method for clearing sidewalks. It’s probably a foregone conclusion, but for those curious, I would not recommend this technique of snow removal.
Snow is hardly unheard of in the Seoul sprawl, but this much snow is apparently unprecedented. Yesterday’s storm was the worst the area has experienced since as far back as 1937, when the country began recording such data. Schools closed, flights were cancelled, and the subways had to stay open extended hours to accommodate struggling commuters. Even scooters, who weave in and out of pedestrians and oncoming traffic at such breakneck speeds I thought they might be unstoppable, were slowed to a crawl. It was a day made to be lazy and lounge around town pondering the falling snow. I’ve got my fingers crossed for more snow and with it a snow day, but record-setting storms like yesterday may not be at my beck and call. At least we were a part (alright, observer) of history for one day.