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Snowed Under: The Toll of the ‘Bomb Cyclone’ on Sports Events

10 Jan, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Snowmageddon. Polar Vortex. Bomb Cyclone. Bombogenesis.

Whatever handle you hang on it or hashtag on social media, the weather is cold and the precipitation is worse up and down the Eastern seaboard. The storm that slammed the coast has brought brutally cold temperatures as well, freezing pipes and leaving many without water.

The travel sector was impacted as well. According to an ABC News report, U.S. airlines had canceled at least 4,000 flights within, into and out of the United States before the end of the week, according to airline tracking firm FlightAware. Most of the cancellations were in New Jersey, Boston and New York. 

The storm closed many schools and delayed others, as well as shut down bus lines and trains. Major cities along the East Coast, from North Carolina to Maine, were under blizzard warnings, while others were placed under winter storm warnings. Several deaths were reported as well as numerous injuries.

Snowfall totals include nearly 17 inches in southern New Jersey and 16 inches on parts of the Jersey Shore. In New York City's outer boroughs, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx all reported 11 to 13 inches of snow. Of course, the recent epicenter of all winter weather has been Erie, Pennsylvania, which had the unfortunate distinction of making national news after having been beseiged by more than seven feet of snow since Christmas Eve. And while the area is used to snow, that much in that short a time is extraordinary, even by Erie's standards.

The Erie Sports Commission, however, reported no cancelled events, according to Emily Biddle. She noted that a few local colleges had to cancel or postpone games scheduled to be held over the Christmas break because roads were undriveable, but that on the whole, the extreme snowfall hadn’t wreaked havoc on any planned events.

However, she noted, there was a bright side. “This cold, snowy weather, albeit not fun for residents, might actually help us as far as sports events. We have had to cancel/postpone an annual ice fishing tournament and cross country ski event each of the last two years because of a lack of ice and snow. Unless the weather really shifts in the next month, it looks like we'll be able to comfortably have both of these events again without the risk of cancellation.”

Not that Erie hasn't been able to adapt the fishing event, at least, she adds. "The event director has made the best of two mild winters in 2016 and 2017, and held a pan fish tournament from the dock, but I think that he and the large constituency of ice fishermen in Erie are really loving this early freeze and looking forward to having a true ice fishing tournament this year."

Meanwhile, the business of sports tried to go on as usual. The Arizona Cardinals, in the midst of a search for a new coach, had a travel schedule that included Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New England, according to an article in AZ Central. And the New England Patriots practiced through the storm (of course). But the Giants coaching search had to be put on hold, said the New York Post. The Penn/Princeton basketball game was postponed due to unsafe travel conditions and the Florida Panthers’ first game against Boston this season at TD Garden was postponed by the NHL.

All things considered, though, the effects of the snowstorm on sports could have been far more severe. Many schools were still on holiday break while others were just getting back into session. Although some holiday tournaments were impacted, many had already wrapped up. The storm's timing (such that it was) might also have been more problematic, had the snow started to fly as college basketball season was gearing up for, or in the midst of, March Madness. 

Some outdoor sports events were simply cancelled because it was too cold. Plenty of local 5Ks threw in the towel, citing unsafe conditions. According to an article on NJ.com, several local polar bear plunges (fundraising events traditionally held in mid-winter at beaches and lakes and other open water areas) also were cancelled, rescheduled or postponed indefinitely because of the low temperatures.

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