Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2014 is off to a great start for all with lots of travel to come!
Back at home, the winter of 2013-2014 has not been fun in Toronto, nor for the rest of Canada and much of the United States. Nor England, nor… okay, not for a lot of places around the world.
The official start of winter for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere was December 21st, the date of the winter solstice. But weeks before this date, Mother Nature was dropping big hints (lower than normal temperatures and early snowfalls) that this was not going to be a gentle winter.
On the day of the winter solstice, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) was hit with an ice storm of a magnitude not seen for at least a few decades. Given all the news warnings about potential power outages, we’d have been silly not to seek out flashlights and candles and keep them close by. As predicted, after a few flickers in the late hours of Saturday night, the power went out completely around 1am on Sunday morning.
We were one of the luckier households regaining power (I’m not counting the 1 minute teasing flickers) around 10 or 11pm Sunday night, just under the 24 hour mark. We had to toss some food from the fridge, but everything in the freezer was safe. More fortunately still, the weather overnight was relatively warm. Neither situation was the case for many others in Toronto. At its worst, more than 300,000 hydro customers were without power, most for several days, some for up to 9 days, and in some cases, as temperatures dropped to almost -20 degrees Celsius.
Lying in bed with my book – one of the few things you can do these days without electricity – I heard a drawn out cracking noise. Pulling apart the blinds, I was immediately struck by the source of the sound: a sizable piece of the birch tree out front had splintered away and had landed upside down, resting on its twigs as it were, just metres from the kitchen window. Over the next few hours 3 more branches would break away, the largest, easily 7 to 8 feet in length and about 5 feet across at its crown. As I walked around the neighbourhood a few days later, pieces of bark were exposed all around. There were stories of trees taking down power lines, crushing cars and creating holes (or worse) in houses. Mother Nature is a seriously powerful beast.
But the sun came out occasionally and in those moments, with the sunlight refracting and reflecting off the vast amounts of ice that covered sidewalks, ceilings, light posts, trees and fields, I saw the beauty of Mother Nature too.
While it has finally warmed up in Toronto (I know, I know – it’s nothing compared to other parts of Canada, never mind other parts of the world), the overwhelming greyness of winter here always gets me thinking of other places and other times. A little nostalgia coming up next….
To all you fellow northern hemisphere dwellers, stay warm! And for those of you in the south, I wish I could be there with you!