LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: It’s about now, after 4 months of cold and a seemingly endless number of snowfalls that the locals start to moan about what a pain New Jersey’s winter is, and how they are sick of it.
Of course, not everyone feels this way. But even the most avid fans of snow and the cold season, are starting to pray for Spring to appear.
Based on current weather patterns, this isn’t going to happen any time soon. In this last week alone, there has been 12 inches of snow, and weather cold enough that you can leave your beer on the back step to get it really chilled.
In no particular order, here are 10 reasons why New Jerseyans are sick of winter:
1. Snow is damn messy – inside and outside
Yes, it’s beautiful while it’s falling and you’re inside watching it but that doesn’t last forever. Soon you’ll be shoveling it, scraping it, tramping through it, and even wading in it. Then there’s the inevitable traipsing it into yours and other people’s houses. It’s damn messy.
Snow itself is just water but snow from the roads, your car or the front pavement, always contains dirt and melted salt. Then there’s the unmelted salt particles (used on pathways and roads to stop them freezing into ice) that drag in. This is the true mess that ruins your shoes, your floors and requires extra rugs, mats or cloths near doors for people to wipe their shoes.
So not surprisingly, it is a good idea here to take your shoes off when coming into someone else’s house. From personal experience, when your hosts politely request shoe removal during a winter visit to keep their floors clean, make sure you have good socks. It’s not so nice to get caught out wearing socks with holes in them or some other footwear that should have been donated to the bin a long time ago. So if you are caught unprepared in this type of situation, acute embarrassment can be another unforeseen side effect of snow.
After a while the beauty of snow-covered outside areas fades too. Magically it transforms into dirt-stained ice piles or muddy, watery puddles that you try and avoid stepping in. About then, you wish it would snow again to cover up this ugly mess. Others want it to turn tropical overnight, so it’s all melted and drained away instead.
2. Your Car is Never Clean
When it snows, no matter how hard you try, having a clean car outside or inside, is a pipe dream. One second after you drive your car out of the carwash, the exterior will be covered in road salt residue. This leaves a very nice splatter pattern, reminiscent of spilt milk.
On the car’s inside, if you don’t have carpet floor mats, be prepared for little pools of water to form on the floor. These come about as a result of snow melting from your boots. This puddle may never fully dry out in winter. It can last seemingly forever, switching between ice and liquid depending on how cold the temperature is. Once the puddles do finally dry out, then what is left is a delightful pile of crap. This type though is a combination of mud, road salt, and other (?) road substances that are very difficult to remove, and can stain the floor mats. Starting to get the picture yet?
3. Shoveling Snow can break you
Most people can understand how shoveling snow can be a burdensome task. I know someone will probably be muttering as they read this ‘so go buy a snow blower for goodness sake’. Unfortunately snow blowers do not work so well on all winter deposits left on your driveway and pavements.
Snow clearing goes in stages. The first stage is clearing away snow off the front pavement (required by law), and pathways, driveway etc. Nothing is more frustrating when you have just finished clearing away this snow, than when a municipal-hired snow plow sweeps down the street and pushes a large pile of snow back over the clean driveway, you just dug out. This ‘snow’ is not the same as the fresh-fallen snow you just cleared. It’s been scraped up along the road as the plow moves down the street, picking up excess road snow. It is also compressed snow, which is both very heavy and dirty. It is very different from the lighter stuff that falls out of the sky. The only way to move it is to shovel it. This is hard work usually and can be very exertive after a while. Getting plowed over can happen a few times after a big snowfall. So it pays not to dig out your driveway too quickly.
It is even worse if you are unlucky enough to live on a street corner. Not only will you have to clear snow from double the amount of pavements compared to other people (both front and side pathways outside the house), your corner will also suffer from being a dumping spot for snow plows cleaning up the roads. Even though it probably makes a funny home video to watch, it’s kind of heartbreaking to stand there and watch as the cleared pavement gets covered over again with a huge pile of the worst snow possible.
No wonder so many corner households do not even bother clearing this backwash pile. It can end up being a sizeable heap and back-breaking work. The end result is a high frequency of snow covered corners. Any pedestrians wishing to cross the road at the corner lights or zebra crossings, have to wade through or climb over these mini-Everests. This when having good winter boots is a great plus.
4. Shoveling Ice is jarring
The need to shovel ice is less frequent but it still occurs enough to make it a pain. Ice is heavier than snow, and does not go through the snow blower too well. There are a few different types of ice that fall in winter. The most common here is frozen rain and ice pellets, which are fine particles. These still usually weigh more than snow, and make a nasty, hard surface on top of snow layers. Even worse, when ice is at the bottom, it usually makes a tough bottom layer that your shovels will hit with resistance. Continued hitting of ice with your snow shovel is very jarring on your arms. Removing ice takes longer than normal snow.
Unfortunately, even normal snow becomes ice after a short while and then it’s almost impossible to shovel or even plow. Refrozen ice is unbelievably tough, and requires an ice-pick or other hitting tool to break it up by chipping it away. Alternatively, you can just wait for it to melt.
5. Roads are messy and traffic is chaotic
Snow makes the roads very slippery to drive on, although not as bad as ice. The snow plus the wet mush that comes from road salt mixing with snow, clogs up your wheels and brakes. If you need to apply the brakes, you cannot do it fast, as the mushy mess just stops your brakes working effectively. You can skid very easily, which makes a nasty combination with slow working brakes.
If snow falls continuously, and not cleared quickly enough from the roads, the weight of cars driving over it compacts it. Compacted snow is like ice, which is even more slippery. Sometimes rain and snow can freeze on the road while you are driving. This makes it more unsafe as the chance of skidding increases dramatically.
Driving before or during snowfall is very slow going due to the impact of sluggish traffic as most drivers slow down. Predictably, with all of these hazardous driving scenarios, more accidents occur and this can turn into traffic chaos very quickly. Wherever possible, it is best to avoid driving on roads until snow is fully cleared away or has melted, to be completely safe.
While there is snow or ice, driving up or down steep hills and driveways is also a big problem. Skidding due to lack of traction becomes almost guaranteed. It can sometimes be counteracted by sand or some other material to get some traction. It is truly best though to avoid this where possible.
6. Getting out of the car is no picnic
Obviously with snow everywhere there is no way to keep your footwear clean or dry. So most people wear waterproof shoes or boots if they are getting out of the car. Getting wet though is not the biggest problem. One of the most annoying things that happens during winter is trying to drop off children at school from the car when there is a bank of snow on the sidewalk area.
It is very difficult to get your children out of the car safely, as the right-hand car doors cannot be opened without hitting snow or ice. If you park further out from the snow bank so you can actually open your door, you risk being hit on the driver side as your car becomes an obstacle to oncoming traffic (not fully over to the curb).
Some schools have breaks built into the snow banks so drivers can stop and open the door and the child can leave safely. However, there are often too few of these and many other parents trying to use them at the same time. Children end up having to scramble over snow banks or squeeze between car doors and the snow bank edge, or worse, walk on the road, as access to the pavement isn’t possible.
7. Parking is not much fun either
As there are lots of cars in NJ, and parking in many places can be hard to find, you can imagine what happens when it snows. When cars are parked on roads during snowstorms, the snow plows cannot clear all the snow around these cars away. When the owners of street parked cars clean the snow off their cars, it gets knocked onto the residue snow next to or around the cars. This piled up snow reduces the number of usable parking spots on the roadside very significantly.
People have to park somewhere, so they still try to park in what is left of parking spaces. With piled up snow on roadsides, these parked cars are forced to take up part of the driving lane spaces, narrowing the width of driving lanes dramatically. This can get so bad that two-way traffic is reduced to one-way traffic, so cars can pass. This means cars have to drive slower, which causes delays and makes drivers impatient, and frustrated.
For these cars parked on the roadside, it isn’t wonderful either. Moving traffic is forced to pass so close to parked cars because the driving lanes are so narrow that damage to side-door mirrors occurs frequently. To avoid this, after parking, you must remember to push your mirrors inward against the door windows, to avoid being hit. The cost of side door mirror replacement isn’t peanuts and usually comes out of your own pocket instead of the insurance company, due to driver excess payment limits.
8. Cars Get ruined in New Jersey’s Winter
As if being covered in road salt, getting smashed windows and dirty interiors isn’t bad enough for your car, there is also the need to clear off snow and ice. Most snow tools have a brush and ice-scraper combined on the same tool. Using these it is easy to scratch your car duco by accident, with the scraper end by scraping too vigorously.
It’s also hard to believe that the metal parts of a car’s exterior are not harmed by having salty water thrown all over them for months on end. Rust must eventually start appearing on the bodywork somewhere.
9. It’s Bloody Cold!
Less than two weeks ago, the temperature here was close to -18C (with wind chill, estimated at -28C). Sounds like we’re in Russia. Enough said.
10. New Jersey’s Winter never seems to end
The last and probably one of the worst reasons to hate New Jersey’s winter is how damned long it goes for. It starts getting quite cold in mid-late November and it is usually still quite cold in mid-late March. Sometimes it goes on into April even. Some people say that NJ has only two seasons. Unfortunately, it’s not spring and fall they are referring to.
After being here for 5 years, I can truthfully say, I still find snow and brisk weather appealing. However, as each year goes by I am able to empathize with the locals more and more. For now though, as more snow and ice are falling outside my windows as I write this, I am going to try and enjoy this still novel experience. For me as an expat, New Jersey’s winter may never come my way again.