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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Canadian weather: Feeding conversations since the 1490's

(Or even earlier... After all, don't the Inuit have an endless list of words to describe snow?)

March 27th and we're shoveling away... again.Today, kids don't have school for a second day in a row. This winter, every other Wednesday or so has been a "snow day". Even the universities closed a few times, which is rather unusual.

We thought we were getting there... not yet, apparently!

It is now early spring in the Maritimes, which are certainly NOT the coldest part of Canada (proximity with ocean helps temperate). Still, this morning we have a nice temperature of -15 Celsius including the windchill. Welcome to our beautiful country!

Unfortunately, we get this error message too often

Pretty much sums it up...

Poor wildlife...
This translates to: "Don't lose hope... spring is coming!
We are beginning to see the deer!"

As some of you might know, I lived in Sub-Saharian Africa as a child, and in the process did not get to see snow for 4 years (from the age of 6½ to the age of 10½). That was enough to wean me from winter and the cold in general. I won't lie, wearing a sundress on Christmas Day and riding my bike on New Year's Eve  is not something I ever thought of complaining about!

But reality has a way of catching up with you. One fateful day, my parents announced we were going back to Canada. Mind you, I love Canada, but I had also fallen in love with Sénégal!

On our first winter back, since I was so young the last time I had seen snow, I didn't quite remember how it "worked": I walked out in my PJs, barefoot, the first morning I saw some white powder on the ground.

Brrrr!!! Memories came back quickly.

I also remember the first time I realized cold temperature doesn't solely make you chilly. It can also hurt. It was around -10 Celsius (colder with windchill) when I started feeling the pain on my cheeks and on the tip of my nose. But the worst was to come. Twice in my "silly-teenager-who-won't-dress-according-to -weather" life I got mild frostbite. Once on my toes, once on my left ear. Frostbite isn't so bad while it's happening. It stings a little, but soon enough you don't feel anything (of course! The body part is frozen!) However, when you go inside and the tissues are allowed to defrost... !"/$%?&* the pain! Two lessons learned: 1) dress for the weather; 2) if you do freeze a body part, allow it to defrost gradually. If you're inside and it hurts too bad, go back outside for a minute or so. That will slow down the process.

Anyways, some 20 years later, whenever it's really cold my left ear still bothers me. Ouch.

Another thing I noticed when we moved back to Canada is how much people talk about the weather here. In Sénégal, apart from the summer months, it doesn't even ever rain (which is a different kind of problem of course)! You can expect the temperature to be warm and dry every single day from November to May. Ah, happiness... In any case, apart from the aforementioned rain season, nobody ever mentions the weather!

What about Canada? Well, it's a little bit different. Between scorching summer days and freezing winter days, not to mention spring allergies and fall hurricanes, we don't run the risk of becoming bored!

This week we got our usual "Wednesday Snow Storm", but on top of it we were blessed with strong winds that were gusting over 100 km/h in some areas. Lovely, I know. Everyone braced for impact, which means stocking up on food and water (in this neighborhood, we are on a well and lose water as soon as we lose power), making sure there's enough candles, batteries and warm blankets, charging or filling the generator if you're lucky enough to have one, etc. (And hoping for the best: losing power in the winter, the house wouldn't remain warm for very long. Been there, felt that.)

When THIS is coming your way, you don't fool around!

This is something I take seriously: in 1998, I lived right in the middle of the "Black Triangle" when we experienced the Great Ice Storm. We had no power for weeks. In January. It was bad. I might have mild PTSD from it. (To read about the traumatizing events, click here.)

Who likes winter, anyways?

In any case, that and my Girl Guide and camping experience have prepared me for the worst! So much that I was almost disappointed when we did NOT lose power yesterday! I had planned board games wrapped in blankets by candlelight, but we ended up cleaning the house, making chicken vegetable stew and watching movies. Mind you, there was also the shoveling. The nice part: our workout is done! (Even the dog... Vizslas turn into kangaroos when playing in the snow!)

What it looked like yesterday afternoon.
Normally, there would be a street and a house straight ahead...

And this is what it felt like later on in the day...

Pretty much the whole province shut down

With the exception of those who offer "essential services".
Those of my friends who are doctors and nurses
were NOT happy about this!

Any fun, scary or unusual experiences with the weather?

Thank you to my cousin, S, for sharing her video of the storm!

I would have loved to be outdoors... NOT!!!

Rick Mercer totally gets it!


  1. I wish I could leave a fun comment but I' m too cranky from the weather!! :-p

    1. I don't blame you! Let's have hope though. :-)

  2. Ugh - I can't even imagine!! We had high winds and rain last night but thankfully no snow!!! It was cold though - I was expecting 50 and it was closer to 35 but still not horrible! And, Sunday is supposed to be 75 -bring it!!!

    1. Lucky you! Almost jealous. Wait, I AM jealous! ;-)

  3. I thought us Brits were good at talking about the weather. Yes, some of us have experienced bad floods this winter but the snow you've had incredible. I know incredible may not be the best word to use! When you want it to go away and enjoy some decent weather, to enable you to get out and about with ease.

    Interesting read again though - many thanks for sharing you experiences.

    Keep warm

    All the best Jan

    1. It will just be so nice to go out wearing SHOES, not knee length super warm and water proof boots!!! :-) I'll let you know when that happens!

  4. Hi Julie - my wife and I traveled to the southwest of Utah, Arizona and Nevada. It was upper 80's Fahrenheit in southwestern Arizona and Nevada most of the time we were there. Coming back north to Montana we passed snowbirds (winter visitors) from Alberta, Canada pulling their 5th wheels with their 4 door pick up trucks heading home to Canada. I bet they wish they would have waited two more weeks before heading north. We drove through rain and snow from northern Utah, through Idaho and hit a nice nighttime spring blizzard once we were 10 miles from home.