Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Calgary has jumped the gun on the rest of Canada, starting its winter with a bang: somewhere around 30 cm. of snow in the first week of September. The newspapers called it a summer snow, but prairie people know better. It’s a foretaste of winter in Canada. 

When we moved to Manitoba 17 years ago, we were warned to expect the worst. The previous winter had been brutal, blizzard after blizzard so that people were piling up mountains of snow on either side of their driveways. (For many of us in Manitoba, the only mountains we ever see.) There had been weeks at a time of minus 30 temperatures. (Minus 22 for my American friends who speak Fahrenheit.) That winter led to the great flood of the Red River (which became for a time the Red Sea south of Winnipeg) in May 1997. Then we moved here, and the next five winters were mild. 

We had decided to enjoy winter. Instead of the dirty slushy mess that we had experienced in Indiana and Pennsylvania we found clean white snow. Winter weather is far too cold for the snow to get slushy or stick to the road, so driving conditions were good. The air is amazingly crisp—dry enough to let you get properly warm if you’re dressed warm enough. Unlike winters in the States, where the dampness meant you were always cold. 

Best of all is the sunshine. Winters on the prairies are bright and dazzling, with more days of clear sunshine than any other part of Canada. Bright sunshine on snow makes dark glasses required wearing for the duration of winter. For the most part, we have loved it! 

Then came last winter. We had more days of minus 30 than usual. We had more snow than usual, and it kept coming after Spring should have arrived. Spring was late. Summer was late. Long-time Manitobans, well accustomed to severe winter weather began muttering in their coffee mugs, looking around for relief. I have to wonder how many more visitors went to Phoenix or Florida last winter than usual. They needed it!


So our summer was shorter than usual, and snow in Calgary is not welcome news. We would gladly grant our Albertan cousins another month of warmth and sunshine, provided they share it with us. Instead, they got a foot of snow. Ouch! 

Oh well, autumn is a lovely season, and we’ll pray that real winter does not descend too quickly or too heavily on us. Whatever comes we will enjoy as much as we can. It’s the only weather we’ve got.

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