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Brian Jones: In defence of Newfoundland weather

Carla Penney-Legge took this shot of her dog enjoying the snow May 24.
Carla Penney-Legge took this shot of her dog enjoying the snow in Central Newfoundland May 24. - Submitted

So many complaints about the wretched weather of late … you’d think people had never seen spring before.

Snow in June! The exasperated tears on social media almost caused Facebook to short circuit. Pictures were obligatory, just in case friends elsewhere in Canada didn’t believe it.

Proving the adage that “no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse,” the forecast is for single-digit temperatures well into next week. Mid June will arrive with a cool 7 C.

Complaining about the weather is therapeutic. It takes our minds off Muskrat Falls. Just don’t think about what a cold June in 2021 will mean for your power bill.

Whining is futile. Wailing is for naught. The fact is — despite impressive evidence, and the claims of 99 per cent of the population — Newfoundland does not actually have the worst weather in Canada.

I was once a member of the 99 per cent. Our first winter here, the first time I felt -18 C, I said to the Missus, “Newfoundland has worse weather than the Northwest Territories.”

But I was wrong. It was mere shock speaking.

Yellowknife, like most mainland places with jobs, was crawling with Newfoundlanders and Maritimers in the 1980s. In winter, when the mercury slid to 40 below, they’d always say, “But it’s a dry cold.”

I had no idea what they were talking about. Really, 40 below is 40 below, dammit.

Except when it’s not. The moment I felt -18 C in Newfoundland, I finally understood what the Easterners meant by, “But it’s a dry cold.”

For the record, -18 C in Newfoundland is roughly equivalent to -40 C in the Northwest Territories.

There were other surprises. The first time I saw “freezing rain,” I thought vandals had smashed all the windows of my truck. As I got closer, I realized the vehicle was encrusted in thin, clear ice. What the…?

But here’s the thing. It hardly ever hits -18 C. Friends and relatives in Alberta were amazed when I told them that we don’t have to plug in our cars in winter. On the Prairies, it you don’t have a block heater, forget about starting your car in the morning. (Although, engine technology and/or global warming may have changed that.)

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Freezing rain? At least it falls and stops. In Victoria, B.C., — the retirement capital of Canada — the winter drizzle begins in October and doesn’t expire until March. The place may be a tourist mecca in summer, but for most of the year it has more drenched seniors per capita than any city on Earth.

As for its neighbour, Vancouver, whose residents boast of living in a semi-tropical paradise — Lotusland, as it is known out west — the bragging about having Canada’s best climate is only half true.

The next time you’re digging out after a January blizzard, console yourself in the knowledge that Vancouverites haven’t seen the sun for three months.

Shall we envy Ontario in general, and Toronto in particular? Would we willingly trade our never hitting 30 C for their heat-wave warnings?

Halifax? Every winter, we hear of it being blanketed by three feet of snow. In summer, the storm reports are replaced by crime reports.

Let’s localize a phrase popular in the perennially bickering cities of Calgary and Edmonton, and say, “The best thing about Nova Scotia is the boat to Newfoundland.”

Speaking of Alberta, that province’s famous Chinooks — warm Pacific air crossing the Rocky Mountains in winter — are similar to south winds in Newfoundland. Chinooks are faster and more intense, but the two phenomena feel almost the same.

And don’t overlook autumn. When the rest of Canada is already suffering under rain or snow, Newfoundland still has another two glorious months of perfect hiking weather.

This place is rugged and wild and extreme. It’s why we love it, complaints notwithstanding.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at brian.jones@thetelegram.com.

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