Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Digging out

I try not to write about the weather too much up here because I think blog posts about weather can be a touch boring or whiny if not handled right. Also, I live in the Arctic. Complaining about cold or snow seems more than a little foolish. Even when it snowed every single month in 2013 (and it did, even July and August) I tried hard not to bitch about it. If you were born here, you're used to it. You're probably used to much harsher conditions that this, from what I've heard. If you moved here, well, what else did you expect? Palm trees?

Still, we're off to quite a start when it comes to blizzards in 2014. We had one a few weeks ago that made national headlines. Not so much for the snowfall amount. Even the worst of blizzards in Iqaluit rarely get more than 15 cm of snow. No, this one was noteworthy for the winds. Sustained at 115 kph with gusts hitting 151 kph. Environment Canada issued an alert that at one point described the approaching storm as a "roof-ripper", which while a delightful piece of evocative writing you do not normally associate with an Environment Canada weather alert, sent local social media into a tizzy.

I didn't write much about it because we managed just fine. We lost power for about eight hours on and off, but what else do you expect with winds that high? Others lost their power for longer and some did lose roofs. And siding. Our next door neighbour lost his shed. Blew across the street and down the hill. It's much....thinner...than it used to be.

Yes, there is something disconcerting about a house shaking quite that much. There's always the worry anytime you live in a house on metal stilts that one good stiff breeze is going to launch you to Oz. Or Greenland. But, knock on wood, we have a sturdy house.

So we managed just fine. Even got some bragging points out of it, given how much my friends and family in St. John's were losing their shit about blizzards and power failures over the holidays. When Iqaluit's wobbly power infrastructure holds up better than Newfoundland's, well, that's quite the smack in the face for Nalcor. Or Newfoundland Hydro. Or the provincial government. Or whoever is in charge of power down there these days.

So we had another blizzard roll through starting Monday afternoon and lasting into the night. No big deal, I thought. The winds, while high (apparently gusts hitting 129 kph) were not as bad as the "roof-ripper, so I figured this would be no big deal. I did notice an unusual build up of snow around the doors, but I believed if the wind shifted overnight, it would probably all disappear anyway. Still, we thought we should get up a little early Tuesday morning, just in case.

Yeah, the snow didn't disappear. The only thing it managed to do was solidify into some kind of concrete substance I've never really experience before.

Leave the house was slightly challenging.
Understand, I grew up in Newfoundland. I am used to backbreaking snow. I am used to wet snow. Snow that has a crusty ice layer on top of it. I am used to massive hunks of snow pushed back by a snow plow that weigh about 5 metric tons. I know snow shovelling and hate it with the passion that most Newfoundlanders possess.

Which is one of the nice things about Iqaluit. I rarely shovel. It's awesome. Why?
1. Arctic desert, folks. Our snowfall amounts are much less than most of southern Canada during the winter. Ours lasts longer, but we don't get nearly as much. This is a fact pissing off many local snowmobile fanatics who can't use their machines except out on the sea ice.
Standing on a six foot drift...on the deck.
2. We hired a local company to plow our driveway. I used to feel bad/lazy about this, then I remembered I have money now and I hate shovelling. Plus, it's a big driveway. I like looking out the window, watching the plow go to work. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Mostly because I'm inside wearing a sweater when he does it.

But this was a special storm. I don't think it brought much snow, but what did fall managed to gather up its friends and have a party at our house. Most of our driveway was, in fact, bare. But up next to the house, the two decks and the car, were buried. By this dense, concrete kind of snow that I've never seen anywhere other than in Iqaluit. And for the first time since we bought the house, it was packed around our place.

So, first things first, getting out of the house. That took about 10 minutes and cost us two screen doors. Both are damaged beyond repair and will have to be replaced on the sealift. Then we had to get down from the decks without kill ourselves. The drifts were that high. Then there was the matter of the car. The front half was buried. And it wasn't like we could just shovel out the driver's side door, hop in and blast her in reverse. No, this "stuff" and bonded at a molecular level with the car. It was not giving up the car without a fight.

Next fun thing we learned...this snow laughs at shovels with a plastic blade. The shovel works fine with ordinary snow, but not this stuff. Cathy uses the metal blade shovel to do some damage, while I find a spade, hack away at the snow enough that I can use the plastic blade.

Digging out the car took two hours, with both of us working on it. We barely touched the stairs, because we needed the car to get to work. Two hours to dig the beast out.

Normally touching the satellite dish is something I can't do
quite this easily.
Hansen's show up later in the afternoon to blast most of the rest of the snow out of the driveway (they couldn't have helped with the car), but we still had to dig out a path on one of the decks (no oomph for both) and also dig a path to the water intake pipe. City workers couldn't deliver water to us today because the pipe was buried under the 10+foot snow drift.

Cathy, enjoying her morning immensely, and not at all
So yes, that was fun. Still kind of achy even as I write this. Of course, because we're idiots, we then went to the gym Tuesday evening. Cathy kind of had to because she started a 12-week challenge at the gym this evening. I went to keep her company and to drive home if the weather got worse.

Although on the positive side, we were supposed to get another blizzard Tuesday evening. CBC weather person in Yellowknife put up a satellite photo that scared the crap out of most Iqaluitmuit Twitteratti. But for whatever reason, it stalled, sparing us another dose. Now we're back to cold, clear sunny weather. Which I have no problem with whatsoever.

Give me cold over snow any time of the week.

Last Five
1. Songbird - Oasis
2. Falling for you - Eskimo Joe
3. Romance to the grave - Broken Social Scene
4. Goodbye yellow brick road - Elton John*
5. The Great Salt lake - Band of Horses

1 comment:

John, Canberra AU said...

I always say that global "warming" isn't about temperature. It's about energy, and that energy can manifest in many forms, including wind and water vapour content. Weather doesn't get hotter, it just gets more "exciting".

The "snowcrete" you describe usually only occurs with intermittent melting, but I can't see normal melting happening given the conditions you experienced. It's hard to imagine, but maybe the wind drives the flakes with such force that when they strike, a small amount of melting occurs, and probably immediately re-freezes. Sounds far-fetched though.

Or maybe you're witnessing the birth of a new ice age glacier. How "exciting"!

Hey, I'm in Australia! Ice isn't my "thing".