Driving home from work Wednesday night during the most recent Storm of the Century, I came across a young guy using a snowshoe to dig out his hopelessly stuck car.
I didn’t laugh. Fortunately, the raging snow hid my half-smile, half-grin.
I had a shovel, and in less than 10 minutes we got his tiny car out of the deep drift and onto clear pavement.
His car wasn’t a Smart Car, but it was about that size. Younger Boy and I have a running joke about Smart Cars: “They’re not very smart in February.”
To be current, we would have to change that line to “March,” but some people, such as St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, would launch into a lecture about how March is not a winter month.
The tiny car had not gone off the road. In fact, it was stuck right above where the yellow line would be. We were on a main rural road that, two hours after the storm set in, had not — gasp! — been plowed.
With a slew of ponds in the area, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s has a number of natural wind tunnels. Snow blows off the ponds and onto the roads, unless there is a stand of trees to stop it.
You can be driving on clear pavement and suddenly come across a snowdrift a foot or two deep across the road.
That’s what had happened to the tiny car hauling snowshoes. He got stuck again 100 metres down the road. Again, we cleared a 10-metre path through the drift to clear pavement, and he was away once more.
Wind, not snow, caused Wednesday’s havoc.
During a 25-minute drive, I encountered at least half a dozen snowdrifts across the road, essentially creating a blockade for small cars.
What I wonder is, how can such snowdrifts, on a main road, go unplowed for more than two hours?
Weather is not the problem.
Our reaction to weather is the problem. Or, more specifically, our lack of reaction to weather is the problem.
News reports about impending weather should be short and blunt: “There will be snow and wind.”
Instead — and the CBC is the primary culprit — weather reports have morphed into bulletins of doom.
We don’t get a 10-centimetre snowfall anymore. Every snowfall is classified as a “storm,” the full fury of a seemingly enraged Mother Nature.
There were significant winds Wednesday night.
But I’m less interested in hearing that winds reached 100 km/h than I am in hearing about why, for the 517th consecutive winter, snowclearing is so woefully inadequate.
Part of the puzzle was solved in St. John’s this week.
City residents were gullible enough last fall to re-elect a mayor who thinks winter ends in mid-March.
This is worth repeating until, someday, it penetrates the minds of the people in charge: heavy snowfalls are not the problem.
Snow not being removed is the problem.
Politicians, like toddlers, repeat the same thing over and over.
“It would be too expensive.”
“It would cost too much money.”
“We don’t have it in our budget.”
That is a side issue. The main issue is clearing roads and sidewalks to make them safe and make it possible for residents to get around.
Every winter, it is obvious St. John’s needs more equipment and personnel.
But nothing will improve until municipal and provincial officials stop defending their approach, and admit that quick and thorough snow removal — not money — is the main issue.
It probably will cost millions of dollars.
Hands up, anyone who thinks it would be money wasted.
And a piece of advice to buddy in the tiny car: keep your snowshoes in the trunk until June.
Brian Jones is a desk editor
at The Telegram. He can be reached