Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snowmageddon™ 2013

Oh, what a beautiful moooooor-niiiiin'...
It's a stunningly beautiful day here in Toronto. Sunny and crisp with nary a cloud in the sky—a picture-perfect winter's day. A friend of ours posted on Facebook yesterday that he was taking his kids tobogganing this morning in Riverdale; we opted not to go because the side of the park he chose—the west side—is difficult enough to get to and park at when snow isn't piled up on the narrow streets in the area. We'll make sure we get out for a good, long walk a bit later, though, to make up for it. In this area of the world, days like this are woefully rare indeed. I love the long shadows and pristine snow you can see in the photo here; the mounds on top of the cars, though, don't seem nearly as high to me as the hand-wringing on social media yesterday led me to believe they would be. The City of Toronto received 24cm of snow yesterday (actually, 1/10 of that amount if you check the official Environment Canada site, which clearly is having some math issues today), which is only single digits in inches, the scale many of us still cling doggedly to when discussing precipitation.

This could be small-town Ontario
In my little neck of this giant metropolis, snow has an especially magical effect. This photo is a close-up of a municipally-contracted snowplow, charged with digging out the parking lots of the rink, school and community centre visible in the picture. This could be any small town in Ontario instead of a few hundred metres away from the Bloor-Danforth subway in the biggest city in Canada. (That is one of the redeeming features of this neighbourhood—one of the very few—and it's what keeps Sarah and me more or less sane these days.) It's a lovely view on an average day—especially in a tight zoom like this—but the mounds of snow around the parking lot really make it seem tranquil, isolated and eminently walkable. With apologies to everyone reading this who actually lives in a small town that was hammered yesterday and many other days each and every winter, this is the winter scene I crave every year but rarely see. I love all the seasons in this country in nearly equal measure and even my advancing—if not advanced—age has done nothing to dim my enthusiasm for winter, real winter, not the grey, slushy, snow-free, just-above-freezing months of Toronto's average early calendar year. I do honestly believe I would feel the same if (when) I finally manage to get out of this city and into the peace and quiet of the hinterland; clearly I won't know for sure until that happens, but I'm anxious to give it a try.

Almost at the cable connector; I had to dig it out
The 24cm we did receive was a far cry from the "minimum 30cm" we were supposed to get, but then that, too, is part of the yearly narrative of Toronto: over-predicting precipitation amounts by a wide margin. There was some substantial wind in parts of the city, leading to quite a bit of drifting—such as on our balcony here—and I imagine that made it seem "worse" to some people than it actually was. At least we didn't suffer through a ban on driving here (which went into effect in Massachusetts before the snow even hit; seriously, what's up with that?). And we didn't name the storm (Nemo? Really?), so we dodged that bullet, too. We did get a lot more snow at one time than we're used to receiving, so it wreaked havoc on everyone's commute here—or, at least, everyone who didn't hide out at home. But when it started to fall sometime on Thursday and then more and more heavily on Friday, we were coming at the storm from a position of strength due to the ridiculous 14C temperature we reached on January 30, ridding the city of every millimeter of the snow already on the ground. This wasn't a case, as it was for many other locations in Ontario, of snow piling on snow; our ground was practically bare on Thursday morning.

Still falling heavily at 8p.m.; stopped completely an hour later
Of course, my opinion about the weather is just that: my opinion. If you stayed inside yesterday because snow "isn't your thing", I'm not going to lambaste you for that decision. At least you stayed off the roads rather than putting yourself into a situation you're not comfortable with. Indeed, I wish there were more people who made that decision yesterday; on our way to and from (mostly from) the Zoo yesterday we passed many cars that were stuck trying to turn into or out of side streets or driveways that were cut off by banks piled up by previous visits from the snow plows, which was understandable and not surprising. However, we also passed quite a few other cars that were stranded with their four-ways on in the middle of absolutely level and previous-plowed parts of Kingston Road for no apparent reason whatsoever. In some cases I noticed that the front wheels had inexplicably been cranked all the way to one side; it really shouldn't take a lot of experience to learn that there is no way you will get a car moving on a snow-covered road unless you keep your wheels pointed as straight as possible. There was nothing we could do for these folks—every single one of whom was using a cell phone as we passed them and, therefore, able to help themselves—so we just shook our heads (well, I did; Tom hasn't had much (read: none) winter driving experience) and continued on our way. Luckily, though, school and business closing decisions had been made overnight and a great number of cars never actually came out onto the major thoroughfares, so our slow and steady progress was rarely impeded by an unfortunate soul stuck between us and our destination.

Blurry, flashless view from our balcony last night
Later in the day, as I had anticipated, the TTC began to stop functioning. Buses were stuck merely trying to get out of subway station bays; the LRT came to a screeching halt; open areas of the subway lines—such as Victoria Park to Warden—went wonky causing all sorts of headaches for people out and about at the end of the work day and well into the evening—even long after the snow had stopped falling. If you were caught in anything like that, you do have my sympathies and I can understand why, perhaps, you don't share my enthusiasm for the weather. But try to comfort yourself with these two thoughts: 1) at least you don't live in Boston right now; and 2) most of the accumulation of yesterday will probably be washed away by the time the sun goes down on Monday.

And that's the part I always hate the most. As much as I love it when it snows, I wonder what the point is if it's just going to disappear two days later. Well, I guess I'd better get out there while it lasts.

Time for that walk.


  1. You're right - it's absolutely beautiful today. Yesterday evening, after finally shoveling our driveway, John and I took a short walk through our neighbourhood park and loved it. And, we have so much now built up around the foot of our driveway, we're planning to turn it into a snow fort with Sarah!

    1. You'd better hurry! It will likely all be gone—again—in a couple of days. But holy smokes, what a day while it lasts! It's really hard to believe it's February. :)

      Sarah and I took a walk today, as I said we would, and got some amazing shots. I'll post the best of them later, or tomorrow!


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