There came a time in April 1967 when 175 centimetres of snow fell on southern Alberta. That’s five feet and seven inches, to save some readers from doing the conversion.
With the electricity out and the chinook coming in, I went outside to see the Canadian Forces helicopters flying overhead, carrying hay to storm-stranded cattle.
They flew quickly across the narrow strip of blue sky that I could see, from my three-foot-tall vantage, in a space dug from snowdrifts.
That blinding white snow and cerulean sky are vivid memories and reminders of weather’s power to alter the lives of man and beast.
Just about everyone has a cataclysmic weather story to tell, it seems.
Given that few prairie dwellers can start a conversation without mentioning the weather, it is a bit of a task to say something original about it.
But as you will see within, Western Producer reporters have done it. So have the subjects they’ve interviewed. Some examples:
Meteorologist Justin Hobson (page 4): “I always say that weather comes first, but my girlfriend doesn’t like that.”
Climatologist David Phillips (page 8): “I kind of liked the idea of explaining something to people in a way that my neighbours could understand it.”
Farmer Bryan Perkins (page 42): “Half of the kids on the school bus stayed at our place for three or four days and half at the neighbours across the road because they couldn’t get home.”
Language expert Gavin Nesbitt (page 43): “The idea is that Inuit, matching their environment, have all these words for snow, which means they see reality differently.”
Researcher David Sauchyn, (page 49): “If climate is your personality, then weather is your mood.”
Once a year, this newspaper dedicates an entire issue to one topic and upon reflection, it’s kind of surprising that it has taken us this long to dedicate a special issue to weather.
No other phenomenon plays a greater role in agriculture and rural life. Predictable only in its unpredictability, weather defines Canadians in general and perhaps prairie people in particular.
We love it and we hate it, sometimes simultaneously. We are proud of our ability to withstand harsh conditions, dismissive of those who can’t, and grateful for the bounty and beauty weather generates.
We are experts on parkas and toques and we wear shorts and flip flops at temperatures that seem laughably cold to our southern neighbours.
In chinook country, we can sometimes ski and cycle on the same day and in the same place, and in Saskatoon we can get well acquainted with snow that hangs around for eight months.
We like snowplows as well as zambonis.
So wrote one scribe whose identity has since been lost. It’s quite possible that more has been written about the weather, in both poetry and prose, than about any other single subject.
“It was a dark and stormy night…”
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity…
“The fog comes on little cat feet…”
You get the picture.
On a more serious note, the historic Paris agreement on climate change was being debated and was eventually signed just as this issue was being prepared.
That pact is not going to change the weather, at least not immediately. Right now, it seems every newsworthy and negative weather event is attributed to global warming. The truth or consequences of that are best left for another day, and perhaps another special issue.
It’s winter and we are facing a brand new year, so let us leave you with a few wintry and thought provoking quotations.
Happy New Year to all of our readers. May 2016 be a wonderful year full of favourable weather.