Over the Christmas holiday, the eastern part of Turtle Island experienced a 3-day storm, one that ended up killing over 30 people in New York State and produced fantastical photos of ice-drenched structures on the shores of the great lakes.
In the week leading up to the holiday, viewed the weather reports with some skepticism since, due to the lake effect and the fact that where I live is right next to the route of the jet stream, we get a lot of warnings for extreme weather that never manifests.
So, I documented it from my apartment, of course. Here follows those pictures:
Not a very promising start, as you can see in this view from my balcony. The rain isn’t even freezing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cold outside, and you can see that it’s quite cloudy, but there’s no snow on the ground at all. Just shiny wetness.
The next morning, I woke up to a dusting of snow! I will admit that I had filled the kettle, the water jugs, and brought out the camping flashlight the night before, in case we lost water or hydro* in our apartment. We were slated to be picked up to go to my parents’ place for Christmas Eve holiday celebrations, so I knew that even if the power went out, we wouldn’t be stuck in that situation for long, which was very comforting. I was haunted by thoughts of the 2013 ice storm, which cut power to many apartment buildings in Toronto (where I lived at the time), and quite a few people died or were severely injured as they tried to combat the cold by heating themselves via BBQs or cars.
Luckily, in 2013 I had already gone home for the holidays and, though my parents lost power, their old house had a wood-burning stove in the basement and a gas range in the kitchen, so there was lots of tea and boardgames by the warm glow of the woodstove. Good memories, and part of why I tend to like older homes because they are equipped with wood-burning stoves. Just in case.
By the afternoon, there wasn’t much in the way of snow, despite continuous precipitation. The storm actually consisted less of snow and more of driving winds and temperatures dropping precipitously. It had been +7 degrees Celcius on Thursday afternoon. By Friday afternoon, it was -20 degrees Celcius – a temperature that Ontario rarely experiences. This was what forecasters referred to as a “flash-freeze”: all that wetness from Thursday night froze into a treacherous sheet of ice underneath the snow. The wind, full of snow (thin though it was), made visibility for drivers unreliable, and driving was a dangerous undertaking.
Suffice to say, I stayed in all day on the 23rd.
By the next morning, I have to say that the child in me was extremely underwhelmed by the amount of snow that I woke up to. Temperatures hadn’t continued falling, thank goodness, and were holding steady at about -10 degrees Celcius, which is a less deadly temperature.
My sister picked us up from our apartment and drove us the 30 minutes down the local highway to the city where my parents live, which wasn’t as bad as I’d been thinking: there was some blowing snow, but the highway was fairly clear and full of traffic, so the friction of the tires had melted what snow/ice had been on the road by the time that we were travelling.
Once at my parents’, I stopped worrying too much about the weather, though it continued to snow all day, and the flakes were fatter, leading to more of a snow pile-up. The reality of the situation only really sank in when my sister and her partner were unable that evening to travel to see his family, who are a 20-minute drive down another highway in a different direction. The highway was closed, and there was a police presence discouraging drivers from taking matters into their own hands. So my sister and her partner slept on the living room floor on Christmas Eve.
The next day, they set out early – the highway was still closed, enforced by police. When they tried again a few hours later, they were able to get through. It turns out that, though there was still a barrier informing people that the highway was closed, there wasn’t actual enforcement, so driving around the barrier and braving highway snowdrifts was possible.
And here’s a view from my balcony on the afternoon of December 26, after we had come home. The temperatures had consistently gone up since Friday and I think it was only about -3 degrees Celcius at this point. Throughout the rest of the week, it continued to warm up, until it was rainy again on Thursday the 29th of December.
Did you experience the Christmas weekend 2022 storm? If so, what was your experience like? If not, have you ever been caught in a comparable weather event? I’ve heard some horror stories about air travel over the Xmas holidays this year, from both coasts…
*Hydro = hydroelectric power. About 1/3 of Ontario’s power grid is fuelled by turbines in rivers or under waterfalls, which generate electricity, and so hydro is a shorthand for electricity here.
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