Thursday, February 6, 2014

a walk in the snowstorm

The weather channel had been calling for a blizzard all day.  I was secretly excited. Down south, we see snowstorms as nuisances, inconveniences that turn our daily commute into harrowing experiences.  Here, there is no commute. Instead, a blizzard means the offices close and we get the day off work. It means a bunch of other things too, of course, such as a possible interruption in water and sewage delivery service, which would suck if you ran out of water or your sewage tank was full.  

But I was looking forward to a blizzard. I've been living here for over a year and we still haven't had a real blizzard yet.  As I've mentioned before, we don't actually get that many blizzards here.  It's usually too cold to snow.

Unfortunately, this was how it looked outside:

This does not look like a blizzard.  I was disappointed. Once again, the weatherman was wrong.

About three hours later, however, this was how it looked outside:

The weather changes quickly here.  Maybe the blizzard was happening after all.

But nope.  By evening the skies were clear again.  There was a lot of wind, but this so-called "blizzard" was mysteriously lacking in any snow.

that's not a blizzard!

The next morning was also fine. So much for the snow storm.  I went to work.

Once I was at the office, the weather turned again.

By the afternoon, we got the message that the weather had gotten bad enough for the government offices were closing down. Well, if the government offices were closing down, so were we! We had ourselves a proper storm day! Finally!

My first instinct, once I left the office, was to go for a walk. Yes, in the middle of the snowstorm. I love going for walks, but with so few hours of daylight, I don't really get the chance these days. I figured I could take advantage of the fact that I wasn't working during today's daylight hours, and check out the snowstorm first hand.

So I went for a walk along the beach shoreline.

The winds were gusting up to 60 km/h, but it wasn't actually that cold - only about -40 or so with the windchill. What was neat to see was the way that the gusts of wind blowing snow across the streets was creating very limited visibility. You couldn't see very far at all.

Still, it was a lovely sight,  feeling the wind blow by your body, watching it trace lines of snow across the road like an intricate design. Not that my photos could really show anything.

And then all of a sudden a large animal ran at me out of nowhere.

You know the only thing I could think, when it jumped on me, was Maybe I should start carrying a gun.

"Down!" I heard a woman shout.

It turned out that it was my friend D, walking her two large and adventurous dogs.   She must have been the only other person in town who thought that the snowstorm was the perfect time to go for a leisurely stroll.
We walked together.

We talked about how the conditions can turn in a second and you can suddenly have no visibility - all of a sudden, you may not be able to see past your hand in front of your face.  It's very easy to get lost in these conditions.  She told me a story about two men who meant to go for a short snowmobile ride across the bay but ended up getting lost and eventually froze.  The weather websites usually advise you to tie a rope line to a tree or something in order to be able to find your way around, but there are no trees here in the North.

Soon enough, as we approached the tundra, the winds were getting so harsh I found I could barely open my eyes. Curse my Asian eyes, unprotected due to a lack of a protruding brow or proper eyelashes.  Also, if I closed my eyes too long, my eyelashes would freeze together.  I was starting to feel some sharp sensations on what little exposed skin that I had, mainly in the upper part of my cheeks below my eyes.  I found myself wishing that I had brought snow goggles, like the kind made out of bone that Atanarjuat the Fast Runner wears in the movie.

So I left D and her dogs to head back towards the heart of town.  Wherever that was.  With such little visibility, it was hard to see exactly where I was heading. I was in the middle of a residential street, with houses all around me, and yet it was too easy to lose my bearings, because you just couldn't see past the next house. It was pretty crazy to think that I was having a hard time recognizing where I was, in a small town with a four kilometre radius.

On top of all that, bizarrely enough, I was sweating like crazy. I was wearing many layers of clothes, plus my Canada Goose parka and my Baffin boots which can withstand temperatures of -100 degrees. Like I mentioned, it wasn't that cold, so I was almost over-dressed.  I needed to get indoors and shed some layers.

Eventually I found the gym, and decided to go for a workout.  There was a surprising lot of people working out there too. I guess that's what people like to do with their blizzard day off. Then I spent the evening indoors, safe and warm from the fierce blowing winds.