Winter wonderland or weather nightmare?

We often forget how dependent we are on weather when travelling. After many trips across the prairies, my wife and I discovered just how fearsome the weather can be. The ugly winter weather of Alberta and Saskatchewan just before Christmas made driving hazardous across those two provinces. Driving rain made the roads a slick mass of ice as both provinces made decisions to close the Trans Canada. Winter travel brings challenges and often delays.

As we drove west, we saw the temperatures plummet to -52C (wind chill) on the Thursday before Christmas. Stalled transports littered the highway and multiple trucks, and cars found their ways into the ditches on either side of the highway. The roads may have been bare on that day, but the swirling snow and sucking drafts of the transports often blinded those following. We arrived safely at our grand-daughters home and enjoyed 6 wonderful grandparent days.

Because of road closures and icy conditions our return home was delayed by a day and even that delay still had highways in Saskatchewan partly covered in ice. Fog often dogged us on our return trip. A train derailed in Taber Alberta. Four people were killed in BC when a bus rolled over. Locally several people have been injured in motor vehicle accidents.

The rain that began in Alberta travelled all the way east to eastern Ontario and Quebec making driving hazardous and knocking out power to thousands.

If driving was hazardous, those boarding planes for holiday travel were also caught up in the storms that managed to create cancellations from one side of Canada to the other and those who were choosing to travel to southern climates also saw their vacation dreams evaporate before their eyes as airlines dropped flights.

Luggage stacked up at Pearson airport, often arriving without its owner or passengers who had their flights cancelled discovered that their luggage had arrived safely at their destination.

It happened not just in Canada but in the United States and Mexico. Passengers were left stranded in vacation resorts looking for opportunities to return home. Southwest over the Christmas weekend cancelled over 12,000 flights and hoped that regular scheduling would return by the time this column hits the press. Sunwing has cancelled all flights out of Regina and Saskatoon until February 3. As one father of a bride noted, her dream wedding has been cancelled and over 50 people attending were now faced with getting their deposits back.

Perhaps this year’s storms with blowing snow, freezing rain, fog are an anomaly. But more likely it is the new norm as global warming continues to change weather patterns. Winter travel will always be difficult.

The Publishers column

Jim Cumming

Former publisher Fort Frances Times