An onslaught of winter weather continues around the world this week. After the massive winter storm Jonas blanketed the East Coast of the United States last weekend, killing at least 42 people, officials in Japan are reporting eight deaths in a snowstorm and a total of 95 dead across Eastern Asia as a result of freezing temperatures.
These tragic figures serve as a stark reminder of the dark side of white skies. The vast majority of weather-related deaths in the USA over the weekend occurred in car accidents, though one mother and child died after snow blocked a car’s tailpipe, pumping deadly carbon monoxide into their home.
Both of the winter incidents posed unique problems, because they defied local expectations for what snowstorms and cold weather will do. In Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, 90 people died from cardiac arrest and hypothermia in the coldest weather in 40 years, with temperatures slipping down to 39 degrees Fahrenheit in the tropical country. An additional five people were reported dead in Japan due to the cold weather.
The snowstorm in Japan broke records, causing hundreds of injuries across the south as the storm posed new challenges to warmer, southern regions. For instance, one older woman died in a landslide brought on by the storm freezing a series of water channels. When the channels unfroze, the built-up pressure caused the landslide.
Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia, and China all posted temperatures unusual for the equatorial nations. A large cyclone called polar vortex is responsible for the unusual cold weather. It came down from Siberia, the infamously freezing eastern Russian province, bringing Gulag-like conditions to the tropics.
The lesson of the recent weeks is that when weather deviates from the mean, it becomes more deadly. The snowstorm on the East Coast dumped 26.8 inches of snow on New York, falling one tenth of an inch shy of the 1922 record. Baltimore is celebrating breaking its all-time record from under 29.2 inches of snow.
Jonas caused fatalities across 12 states, including Georgia, an incredible destructive range that points to the misleading nature of calling such storms “Nor’easters.” As seen above, they really look more like “Easters.”
Whether it’s in Asia or the United States, these extreme events take a toll on everywhere they hit, because it’s damn near impossible to stay ahead of Mother Nature. And there may even be an upside, though we won’t be positive for about nine months.