Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Roller Coaster Prairie Winters

After nearly a week of wonderfully warmer weather, not quite up to Alberta chinook standards but close enough, we have been plunged back into the deep freeze the last 2 days.  

From a daytime high of +1C only 24 hours ago, to today's windchill of -32C, actual temperature -24C, our bodies have gone into shock I think.  By tomorrow we are back up to 0C with 2 days of +3C and +4C, followed the next day by a high of -14C.  No wonder 'flu' season has been so devastating this winter across the prairies.  Saskatchewan has recorded 12 known deaths this winter from H1N1 or derivatives thereof.  I will be first in line for next winter's 'flu' shots, that is for sure!

However, all this pales when I see the news and weather reports coming out of the north eastern United States.  There are about 13 states reporting unusually bad blizzards, icy roads, deep snowfall and visual whiteouts from blowing snow along with temperatures in the minus mid teens.  When I see the videos on the tv news and see Washington DC virtually shut down due to bad weather it is kind of shocking.  

It would be easy to accuse them of just being too wimpy or to tell them to settle down and get with reality when I consider what our own weather is like here, but these people are not equipped to deal with their unusual weather. For us in northern Canada storms, white outs, and all the trappings of winter weather systems are the norm.  We have great huge snowploughs, down filled parkas, heavy lined snow boots, ice melt, sturdy shovels, wool mitts, studded snow tires and everything else we need to get through the cold days.  Watching smaller industrial bobcats trying to move a foot of snow off major highways in the USA makes me feel almost as frustrated as those poor under equipped operators must feel. One tv reporter listed the items in the 6 layers of clothing he was wearing as he stood there shivering.  No wonder he was still cold. Every layer was made of either polyester or light cotton.  Even his jacket was barely adequate for a cool day during a Canadian autumn.

I am so grateful we are not having to cope with the terrible effects of weather we are not prepared to deal with, such as our neighbours to the south are experiencing right now.  I am so grateful that we are not suffering from long term power outages that have been going on in eastern Canada and the Maritimes in recent weeks.  

Yes, there are times to be intensely grateful for the winter weather of the prairies where we live. For the most part our towns and cities are prepared to cope with a broad diversity of bad weather systems.  Those of us who live here know what we are dealing with and we can dress and equip our vehicles accordingly.  If we do become storm stayed for a few days it isn't a big shock, only an inconvenience or a tiny tragedy like having to miss a doctor's appointment in the city unexpectedly due to a sneak attack by a storm system our forecasters missed the strength of somehow.  That is unusual.  Our local weather reporters are incredibly accurate and we rarely get insufficient warning to prepare for a very bad storm.

So here I sit in the downward fall of the local weather roller coaster, grateful for my -32C windchill because of my wool coat, heavy mitts, warm scarves, fuzzy lined boots and my car's winter tires and heating system.  I am not stuck in the north eastern USA, suffering unexpectedly with problems in commuting to work and day care, wondering if I will have a serious accident just trying to travel a few blocks from my home on summer tires as they slip and slide on ice, the like of which I have never seen before.

Yup, gratitude is a great feeling!

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