Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

WINTER ROADS

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Winter driving is nerve wracking at the best of times. Winter driving on county roads with wide-open farm fields on either side is hardly any fun at all. I always wondered why farmers never planted windbreaks on the road-side-edge of their fields. You always see a tree line running 90 degrees to the highway marking off sections for pastures and planted crops. But never parallel to it. So when the wind blows, it moves surface snow off their land and on to the roads. One is always mindful of wind direction (among other things) when setting out on long drives.

We watch the sky too. High Cirrus clouds predict fair weather. By watching their movement you can tell from which direction weather is approaching. When you see Cirrus clouds you know a change in weather is 24 hours away. High thin, sheet-like Cirrostratus Clouds that often cover the entire sky usually come 12-24 hours before a snowstorm. The Cirrocumulus clouds usually indicate fair, but cold weather. When we see gray or blue-gray mid level Altostratus clouds covering the entire sky we wonder. They’re made up of ice crystals and water droplets. And Altostratus clouds often form ahead of storms of continuous snow.

Local radio stations give you the weather. They tell you about road closures. Whenever we’re under a Snow Squall Warning we can predict, with a fair degree of accuracy, where the OPP will set up their barricades.

Then there’s the Internet. Its always fun to compare The Weather Network’s and Environment Canada’s forecasts. They are never the same. Environment Canada is more accurate. The Weather Network is more optimistic. Although they do give you an hourly breakdown. But Environment Canada gives you radar and a complete list of road conditions.

Usually, a day or two before we have to drive any distance, we check all of them. If there’s a 40 % chance of snow in the forecast and if the winds are any higher than 30 km per hour…we have second thoughts about going. Even though we drive a 4×4 with snow tires…we think twice about driving. We’ve been caught, day and night, too many times by miserable weather.

Snow Squalls are blinding. We drive in the middle of the road, high beams on, as much as we can. We leave space. We slow down. When we loose sight of cars ahead of us, we slow down even more. We’ve learned to hang well behind snowploughs as they throw back the equivalent of a blizzard when they move fast. We learned how long it takes between towns and memorized the distance so we always know when and where we can safely wait out the squalls if we have to. We are cautious when we have to drive. Maybe its a sign of old age.

As terrible as this all sounds, there are days – when the sun is high – the sky blue – the air crisp with floating ice crystals – when long, smoky shadows fall across pure white frost-crusted snow – and wind drifts swirl like a whirling dervish off roadside snow shoulders – when circling hawks hang in the air – and the road is dry – that you marvel at the beauty of a winter’s drive in the country.

 

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