PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
My family listened intently as threats of the imminent American east coast Winter Storm Jonas were making the media rounds, wondering if we in Quebec would be the recipients of at least the tail end of the weather phenomena, even if we weren’t on the A-list for the main event.
News that the monster storm wouldn’t make it this far north was met with a resounding “Awww…” as me and my snow-loving boys jealously watched the news footage unfold from our benign and boring vantage point.
The equation of ample warning combined with the snow’s convenient Friday night arrival seemed to make for a perfect storm (sorry!) of hunkering down for a weekend of Mother Nature-imposed rest and relaxation and the unique feeling that comes with having survived something larger than ourselves.
As a winter-loving January baby myself, I take great Canadian pride in having lived though not only some epic snowstorms, but other momentous climatic blips that include the 1987 Montreal flood that turned the Decarie Expressway into an artificial lake and survived eight days without power in the 1998 Ice Storm while seven-months pregnant. I like to think I could handle just about anything climate change can throw at me.
The tail end of 2011’s Hurricane Irene had us preparing dinner on a Coleman camping stove on the front porch while we read by the light and disconcerting hiss of the propane lantern.
I felt pretty smug about my survival skills, having cooked on makeshift surfaces, recycling melted wax back into candles, and keeping young kids entertained without electricity, until I encountered a storm-induced survival story that occurred virtually right outside my doorway eight years ago.
A March 2008 freak winter storm didn’t so much blow in as it targeted a small, select area where I live in Notre Dame de l’Île Perrot, one whose specific geography crafted an unprecedented microclimate.
Known as the Lake effect, perfect conditions between a cold air mass met an expanse of warmer air over Lac St-Louis that somehow gave birth to an intense localized storm along a three kilometre stretch adjacent to the shoreline.
A friend of mine was on his way home with an order of take-out food for his pregnant wife just as the weather began to take its ultimate turn for the worse. With high winds driving the wet, heavy snow onto the road, he – along with a number of other poor souls out in their cars – immediately became trapped in the accumulated mess with the reported consistency of cold molasses. When even the snowplough got stuck, the mired drivers pooled themselves into my friends’ minivan, ate the takeout food, and prepared to hunker down for the long haul. Sûreté du Québec officers arrived by snowmobile, knocking on doors of houses along the street to see if they could put the stranded motorists up for the night.
“Why didn’t you just come to our place?” I asked him later as he recounted the tale. Unfortunately, the force of the snow and wind was so intense, he had no point of reference to know where he was, other than just being somewhere stuck.
The pepines arrived the next morning to carefully extricate the vehicles and allow the stranded motorists to finally make their way home.
I now know my survival skills are not much to brag about when I have a roof, four walls, and a woodstove at my disposal.
And since that day, I’ve decided it’s perfectly reasonable to always have takeout food in the car.
Just in case.