Thursday, January 8, 2009

Il neige!

It snowed here today. And I mean it really snowed. I can't find the info online anywhere, but it looks like 8 in or more. If James didn't have the camera with him in Berlin (he's at a conference), I would take some pictures because it's beautiful, and from what I hear, we may not get to see this again. People say that most winters it snows a little here (with relatively little accumulation) but there's been nothing like this for ten years (or 20 if you read the article I posted below).

I've never lived anywhere that people were quite so unequipped to deal with snow. I tried going into the lab, but the way I usually go was closed off and there were university students milling about playing in the snow and not going to class. I figured the university, like many businesses in Aix, was just closed today. The market in the Place Richelme didn't even happen. I learned later on that as early as 8h30 this morning, with 4 in of snow, they closed down the regional airport and that the mayor of Marseille advised everyone to stay home and not drive. What's a bit scarier is that this huge amount of snow has led to a major problem with power -- over 17000 residences in the d├ępartement lost their electricity this afternoon. If that happens here, that would include our heat.

On the brighter side, I've also never lived anywhere that people were so delighted by snow. After nine years in Chicago, where this kind of weather is expected, this is pretty fun to watch. I don't know if the mayor of Aix weighed in on the weather situation, but here, people didn't stay home. Instead, they went shopping at the stores that were open (it's sale season) and took pictures and video of the snow as if they'd never seen the likes of it before. Their dogs ran around and played in the snow (although none of the dogs tried to eat as much of it as Aleppo does), they pulled each other in makeshift sleds down the Cours Mirabeau, threw snowballs at each other and then sat outside at caf├ęs under heat lamps to warm up.

For those of you who speak/read French, click on this link to a piece about the 7h36 train between Marseille and Aix (a 20-mile trip) that got stuck part way through the trip and returned to Marseille eight hours later.

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