IT’S HARD to deny that we’re into the February blahs. Last week in particular, the persistent deep freeze put many Northwestern Ontario residents in a foul mood as winter’s worst banished many inside.
Winter has been hitting us like a boxer using right-left combinations. We get punched with snow, then pummelled with extreme cold which only relents for the jab of another pounding snowfall.
Of course, bad weather always seems worse when you’re in it. By the numbers, January was a little harsher than usual but no records for cold or snowfall were set.
Environment Canada’s Peter Kimbell told us the mean temperature for the month was about one degree below normal. Below-seasonal temperatures are continuing this week. Snowfall is on pace to be average for the winter season, but we’ve had the bulk of it in the six weeks between Christmas and now.
Winter’s woes have damaged more than our moods.
Tow trucks are unable to keep up with the demand as some vehicles fail to start in the cold while other vehicles slide into snowbanks and ditches. City crews are forced to endure winter’s rawest rage as they fix water main breaks. Homeowners fret about rooftop snowloads or ice-damming, overburdened furnaces, and finding a place to put all the snow that has to be shovelled out of driveways.
But as much as winter gets us down, it also brings out the best of Northerners. Work, play and life goes on. Neighbours help neighbours, friends help friends, strangers help strangers and we get through it.
Many go beyond merely surviving winter. Outdoor rinks, playgrounds, trails and hills are busy with skaters, sliders, skiers and even cyclists. Drivers race their cars around an icy loop at Mission Bay each Sunday. The City of Thunder Bay hosts Winter Fun Days, attracting hundreds to the waterfront each Sunday.
Snowmobilers get out for winter fun and charity. Last weekend, 140 riders on 109 sleds took part in the sixth annual Sled for Eternity ride, starting and finishing at the Kakabeka Falls Legion, in support of Adult and Teen Challenge and their work to help people overcome addictions. This Saturday, Grand Portage Lodge and Casino will host the annual Snowarama ride in support of Easter Seals Ontario.
Spring is coming eventually. According to southern Ontario’s Wiarton Willie, spring is coming early and not after six more weeks of winter.
Of course, the Groundhog Day ritual is a little silly to those who live in Northwestern Ontario. We’d be relieved to hear there will only be six more weeks of winter. The idea that by March 16 we can expect to see grass greening, rivers flowing and flowers sprouting is an alien concept. But like much of North America, we enjoy the winter amusement of a rodent making weather predictions.
Such amusements mixed with relentless complaining about the weather helps us get through our long winters. That doesn’t mean we can’t still get out there and enjoy it.
Stay safe and stay warm.
(Originally published Feb. 5, 2019)