“It was so cold… I tasted blood in my throat”: S’porean caught in the American blizzard recounts the ordeal
SINGAPORE – Ms. Leong Yi Yin woke up shivering on the morning of December 24 and was wearing a down jacket before burying herself under three blankets in her bed to ward off the cold.
The 26-year-old Singaporean’s apartment in Buffalo, New York, had been without electricity – and therefore without heating – for 30 hours.
Sheets of snow billowed and swirled outside as “the blizzard of a century” – as it was named – whipped up Western New York. The student’s roommates had gone home for the holidays and she was left alone in the freezing apartment.
“I was bundled up under the sheets, but steam still came out of my mouth every time I breathed. I looked out the window, and it was completely white…I had never seen snow pile up before. so fast before,” said the University at Buffalo student, who is pursuing her master’s degree in communications and has lived in Buffalo for 14 months.
The town, a half-hour drive from Niagara Falls, is known to be one of the snowiest in the United States.
The powerful winter storm knocked out power, made roads impassable and claimed at least 39 lives in New York’s Erie County, where Buffalo is located.
To stay warm, Ms. Leong boiled a pot of water and left it to steam on her gas stove. But as freezing temperatures persisted on Christmas Eve morning, she asked for help on a Facebook group for Buffalo residents with more than 68,000 members.
Almost immediately, a family of four on a nearby street who hadn’t lost power offered to open their house to her.
But arriving at his neighbor turned out to be an ordeal.
“It was only a two-minute walk on Google Maps. But the snow was up to my thighs, and it was so dense and thick that it was difficult to walk. There was no one on the streets and I I only saw cars buried in snow. I was trying to figure out where I was,” Ms. Leong said.
“It was so cold and dry that I could taste blood in my throat.”
At her neighbor’s house, she played with the couple’s two children and told them about life in Singapore. While the electricity to her apartment was finally restored on Christmas afternoon, she ended up staying with her neighbors until Boxing Day in case there was another power outage.
“It was a traumatic experience, partly because I had no way to charge my phone and contact people. But it’s also crazy how I managed to meet a family this way, and they were so kind to offer me food and shelter while I was so far from home,” Ms Leong said.