Notes and observations from a photographer and cultural interpreter living on Canada's east coast.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
The Ninja in White
A light snowfall on Monday night turned into a full-blown blizzard on Tuesday -- whiteout conditions brought traffic to a halt on major streets, and even though the snowfall amounted to only 20 cm, or 8 inches, conditions were so miserable that at times it was difficult to see across the street. The storm packed such a punch that it's already being referred to as the "White Ninja", and both schools and businesses started closing as soon as it struck. Snow day! Those words were magical when I was a student because they meant an unexpected holiday, a reprieve from the day-to-day routine of school. In our house, though, they had an even greater impact since both my parents were teachers. When a snow or ice storm arrived, the whole family would be gathered around the radio listing for that sweet announcement: Closed for the day. There were a lot of people around yesterday who know that feeling, since the closing announcements started early in the morning and continued into early afternoon. By that point, though, driving conditions were perfectly miserable. Packed snow covered the streets, and those whiteout conditions were at their peak. Some hardy souls braved the weather while others opted to stay at their offices a bit longer in hopes that things would improve.
By the next morning, streets had been cleared in most neighbourhoods and life was pretty much back to normal, or at least "winter normal". Snow clearing has been a touchy subject at City Hall for several years now, with the City maintaining that sidewalk clearing simply wasn't possible in a climate like ours and the populace maintaining that it was a necessity. For years, a snowfall in St. John's has meant that sidewalks disappeared and pedestrians took to the streets along with the cars. As the number of cars in and around the city increased, there was a corresponding rise in difficulty for those on foot; some actually had the nerve to complain about the near-constant shower of salty slush flying up from the tires of passing cars.
It's taken a long time, but City Hall finally began to listen and a greatly improved system of sidewalk clearing has been implemented. It's going well, up to a point. Sometimes, as you can see, that point is right in the middle of the block, when snow clearing has inexplicably stopped and we're back to the mountains of snow that are best negotiated with the aid of a team of Sherpas; on the whole, though, it's definitely an improvement, and as time goes on I'm sure it will get better and better, both for pedestrians and for the drivers who no longer have to worry about threading their way through the foot traffic. Here's to snow, and to snow clearing, and most of all to snow days.