“Oh, is it supposed to snow tomorrow?” I overheard at the supermarket on Thursday evening.
Clearly, at least one candid soul was still blissfully unaware of the upcoming snowstorm expected to hit Ottawa anytime now.
Someone in the long lineup sighed. None of us had RSVPed. We had all been booked as the reluctant guests for the premiere of winter 2023, yet another predictable sequel.
How did she miss all the not-so-subtle cues all week long?
The Weather Network app’s bright-red “snowfall warning” alerts?
The provincial and local news reports tracking the storm and promising a white Christmas?
The “you’re on your own for this one, school bus service cancelled” emails from school?
The snowplows on standby in parking lots?
The supermarkets, unusually busy for a Thursday evening?
The fact two separate customers right in front of us were buying enough toilet paper to last through winter and a few new variants?
But hey, cannabis is legal in Canada and it’s not frowned upon to go through life high as a kite. In fact, considering the state of the world, the country, the province and the economy, it may be advisable… I mean, “therapeutic.”
Since the cashier was busy doing a price check for someone who couldn’t believe a loaf of bread was almost $4, we teamed up for the latest live weather update.
“There should be about 15 centimetres of snow by tomorrow morning…”
“Really? Apparently, it’s more like 30 centimetres…”
“No, that’s by tomorrow evening.”
“Wet and heavy snow, the worst kind to shovel…”
“Not uncommon at this time of the year…”
“So when it is starting, already?”
None of us knew.
Snowfall is hard to accurately predict and the potential resulting mess is also an educated guess. Basically, it depends on the type of snow, accumulation speed, wind and temperatures, the city’s snow removal budget, and timing (a blizzard during rush hour is the worst-case scenario).
Winter is the toddler of all weather events—it’s manageable until it’s not, and when it’s not, you’re in for an exhausting tantrum.
I can’t think of any other recurring weather event—tornadoes are usually fairly rare!—that changes the landscape and daily life so dramatically. Everything you were taking for granted is suddenly twenty times more difficult, from going to the mailbox across the street to braking safely.
The “OMG, so pretty!” first impression doesn’t last long.
Snow sticks to everything and when so much of it is dumped on the city, it doesn’t melt much, it just turns icy or slushy. At one point, the challenge becomes what to do with snow. Roads are cleared to a snow-packed surface and salted, creating tall snowbanks and dumping half of it on sidewalks, then sidewalks are plowed and snow is dumped back on roads, until roads get cleared again, and so on. Most parking lots become informal snow dumps with giant snow mountains. Sidewalks get narrower and narrower until snowbanks are cleared off and snow is transported to a licensed snow-storage facility—yes, it’s a thing in Canada, and illegal snow dumping is also a finable offence.
The past few nights have been eerily bright (snow is highly reflective) but there’s barely any light in the daytime and the world comes in shades of grey. The city is a mess too, but I don’t care, I’m not going anywhere.
I’m busy packing.
I lost the sprint race against the weather but it’s okay—I signed up for the marathon.