Friday, March 30, 2007

Snow day again

I'm home again this afternoon....another blizzard day in Iqaluit. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's just that there's been a lot of them this month. I haven't kept exact track of how many days I've been off work for weather related reasons in March, but I would think five days certainly wouldn't be too far off the mark.

It's funny, when I was a journalist I went to work no matter how bad the weather. Cathy used to really worry about some of the weather I went out in. I went to work times when my father, the mailman, was told to stay home (for the record, dad would have went out in it, because that's just who he is). Granted, I tended to work for companies that would prefer you harm yourself in a car accident than give you the day off, but still (note: I worked in weekly newspapers. What difference did it make if I was at work as long as it wasn't a deadline day?). Now that I've changed professions, I got a lot more days off.

I actually have a vacation day left over that I was supposed to use before the end of March (I can roll over some vacation days from one year to the next, but I had to use this one day). However, I've had so many days off in March that I really didn't want to take it. I'll get financially compensated instead, which is probably just as well.

Trying to figure out when to close things down is always a tricky racket. Lord knows people did enough grumbling about it back in Newfoundland. It's harder here, with the unpredictability of the weather. Although they made the right call today, as visibility is down to a few hundred feet or less.

Here's the thing, though. When this is all said and done, I imagine the total snow fall for this blizzard will be less than five centimeters. That amount of snow wouldn't count as a dusting in Newfoundland. Barely a nuisance. Between five and 19 centimeters is an inconvenience. More than 20 might classify as a blizzard if the winds were up high enough.

But a blizzard up here is a different thing. Yes, there is less snow. But I think people are always surprised by how little snow there is in the arctic. Remember, this place is very dry. We really don't get as much precipitation as other pasts of Canada, and certainly nowhere near what Newfoundland gets. Twenty centimeters in one shot would be apocylptic up here.

However, what our blizzards lack in snow, they make up for in other ways. The snow that falls tends to be very "dry", which means it cam blow around for days after it falls. So when the wind picks up, it's nothing for visibility to drop in a hurry. Also, there is no vegetation and few buildings to act as wind breaks. We don't get it as bad here as they do in Rankin Inlet, where the terrain is very flat (we do have some hills), but again, the snow really does blow around up here.

But the big difference is the cold. Most blizzards down south take place around the freezing mark. Not so much up here right now. The temperature right now is -17 with a wind chill of -33. We had a blizzard earlier this month with wind chill around -50. Combine that with no visibility and it's really not something you would want to be wandering around outside in for more than a few moments.

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