One of the other things that I do now all the time that I never did living in ‘the South’ (what we call everywhere else) is check the weather. Before I go to sleep, before I get dressed, before I leave for work, before I leave work to come home and almost any other time that I decide to go outside.
This morning, I checked and told my roommate about Enviro Canada’s extreme weather warning for windchill temperatures (our second in the nine days we’ve been here) between -50 and -55: “At these extreme wind chill values frostbite on exposed skin may occur in less than 5 minutes.” I put on extra thick wool socks from my bestie, long underwear, snowpants, my parka, a hat with ear flaps, a baclava/neck warmer tightened so only my eyes were showing, gloves and super-insulated mittens. While it wasn’t the coldest its been here, it was definitely the windiest.
I had a fabulously productive morning at work (including being jokingly- I think -given the title ‘Acting Director of Condom Distribution’ on a sign outside my cubicle) and was just getting settled into a not-so-fascinating project when we received an email telling us that our offices were closed. One of the women in my office came over and, in one of those I’m-being-calm-because-that-is-what-you-are-supposed-to-do-in-emergencies-but-really-am-slightly-panicked voices, told me to quickly pack up my stuff and meet downstairs to get a ride home from someone headed in my direction.
I didn’t check the weather before we left (or wash my lunch dishes), but my roommate did. It still had this morning’s windchill warning. Once we got outside, we decided it really wasn’ that bad. OK, the wind was so strong. Strong enough that the walk home would have been worse than the walk to work. And, the snow was blowing enough that the driver repeatedly asked us to see if we could see any cars. But it wasn’t the combination of snow and wind that causes whiteouts. The lady who drove me home said that it usually isn’t so bad when they make the decision to close, but the decision to close is based on the fact that when people try to go home late on in the day, they often get disoriented and end up walking past their houses and sometimes become part of the handful of people who freeze to death on the tundra. Or the people the search and rescue looks for in terrible weather conditions. The point is, none of those are good outcomes.
By the time we got home, we could tell it was getting worse; the visibility had definitely worsened. Enviro Canada posted a new weather warning for blizzard and windchill:
Strong northwest winds of 50 to 70 km/h are giving blizzard conditions to Iqaluit today. These winds are expected to ease somewhat later today which should improve visibilities. However strong northwest winds are expected to redevelop overnight into Thursday with blizzard conditions possibly returning. Temperatures will fall this afternoon into tonight with wind chill values near minus 50 by Thursday morning.
For now, I’m sitting cozy in my bed underneath my most prized possession, a heated blanket, curled up and alternating between my book and my computer, watching the storm get worse and drinking a cup of tea. I have plans to bake sweet potato zucchini quickbread later with my roommate. And nap maybe. You know, snow day things.