Unprepared for surprise snowfall

Winter weather rare for the West Coast

When heavy snowfall warnings were issued by Environment Canada last week, I knew I wasn’t ready.

And I wasn’t alone.

I had a half-bucket of de-icing salt left from who-knows-when, and I didn’t have a snow shovel. The first (and only) snow shovel I owned – bought decades ago – broke during the last serious snowfall we had, roughly three years ago. I thought then, wait until spring to buy a new one. They would be on sale.

I never did get around to it.

So Saturday afternoon meant a trip to Rona for a new snow shovel and de-icing salt, only to find a sign on the door telling shoppers they had neither.

A quick scan of hardware store websites on my cell phone told the same story elsewhere.

It seems I wasn’t the only one caught off guard at the threat of snow.

(Fortunately, I remembered a small, independent hardware store in a remote corner of Surrey. He had a couple of snow shovels left, but no de-icing salt.)

It isn’t just a sudden snowfall which can catch some of us unprepared. Travel to other points of Canada in early spring can do the same thing.

I once flew to Winnipeg in early April, and along with the keys to my rental car, I was handed an ice scraper. I left warm, sunny weather at home for a week in minus-18 weather. I didn’t take a winter jacket, or gloves, on the trip.

Similar story going to Prince George in mid-March to coach a women’s hockey team at a provincial tournament. Several players showed up at the airport in shorts, dressed for the unusually  warm, spring weather in the Lower Mainland. We arrived in PG an hour later, where it was snowing and minus-12.

My wife, who lived most of her life in the Montreal area, often tells me I wouldn’t survive a winter in Quebec as I haven’t experienced ‘real’ winter weather.

When she does, I’m  reminded of a trip to Montreal during the spring a couple of years ago.

We were at a family event one afternoon, and I overheard a conversation about the weather.

One woman pondered having the snow tires taken off her car as “the weather is warming up,” but her friend suggested she wait as there was a light snowfall “up north” just a week earlier.

It was early May. And the possibility of another snowfall was on peoples’ minds?

I had been regularly mowing my lawn for a couple of months. But judging by the length of grass in numerous front yards in the Montreal area, grass-cutting season had yet to begin.

And snow tires? I have bought one set in my lifetime, and that was during the short time I was living in Merritt.

In Montreal – and most other parts of the county – winter tires go on the car in October because it’s when, not if, the snow will come.

They prepare for the cold weather.

Here, it just catches (many of) us unprepared.


Rick Kupchuk is a journalist with The Leader.

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