“January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow – Sara Coleridge”
Surely, snow brings wonderful aura to most of us. The white snowflakes that the child in the Emirates commercial or the cozy, romantic atmosphere in movies like Home Alone, Serendipity, Bridget Jones Diary and Frozen where snow adds to the appeal that these unique flakes that fall gently on our heads or on our window pane evokes sense of peace.
Wake up, it’s kind of far from it. Snow may be appealing only on its first fall. But it loses its attractiveness once it goes on and on and on.
For Hong Kong, it’s special, even if it’s on a subtropical region not known for such winter bonanza. The last snowfall within the territory was reportedly in 2010 in the remote mountains when frost formed amid near zero degree chill.
So when the Internet rumors swirled and even landed a spot at South China Morning Post, it brought excitement to some netizens especially during a winter season that’s warmer than before — Cold Weather Warning was issued only on 17 December, followed by higher than average temperatures. Although most likely it never snows in Hong Kong, the global warming anomaly could bring unusual weather conditions and change in seasons. Cherry blossoms in December in Washington and hurricane in January were both attributed to global warming. This snow in Hong Kong could be part of an extreme weather pattern.
While we all welcome snow, it could mean chaos if it falls widespread in Hong Kong.
1. Homes are often uninsulated and lack heating systems. Flats and apartments in Hong Kong were built exactly for the kind of climate Hong Kong has: chilly winters and hot and humid summers. Installing airconditioning units is more realistic that including heaters in home construction. If snow, accompanied with single-digit or subzero temperatures, falls in Hong Kong, it could mean risk of hypothermia in a society with high ratio of aging population. Gas bills due to increased demand for heating bills would likely rise too.
2. Transport system could be disrupted. Cars and other vehicles unprepared for snowy roads could slip, causing accidents. Snow piling up on top of subway trains — see East Rail Line — could damage the carriages. Likewise, applying salt on roads to lower the freezing temperature of water that falls as snow could pollute waterways and stain clothing and boots.
3. While shoveling snow is certainly a workout that replaces running, the effort also raises risk of heart disease and back strain according to Wall Street Journal.
4. Typically functioning facilities may be scaled down to reduce risks. Ngong Ping Cable Car may drastically reduce operational frequency, or plants and animals at Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens need special attention.
5. Goods not used to the extreme cold weather could easily perish, driving prices of commodities higher.
6. Our bodies may also react to the extreme weather condition such as dry skin and chapped lips. Such conditions could also aggravate the flu season and strain medical facilities. With fewer things to do in such dull weather, the mind could also be affected and depression could strike anyone.
Snow in Hong Kong? Be careful what you wish for.