There’s no day like a snow day. In that same vein, there’s no column like a snow day column!
On Monday, Toronto and most of southern Ontario got hammered by one of the biggest snowstorms in this region in many years.
Toronto was originally supposed to get 25 to 35 cm of snow, according to Environment Canada. That was eventually upgraded to 40 to 60 cm. Based on more than two-and-a-half hours of shovelling I’ve already done, and a bit more to do to level off the additional snow, my guess is it will be the latter.
Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Welland, Grimsby, Kingston, Ottawa and other cities were expected to receive 25 to 40 cm of snow. That was increased to 30 to 50 cm. Similar amounts of snow arrived in Pickering, Oshawa, Durham Region, Uxbridge, Beaverton, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Markham, while Barrie, Orangeville, Kitchener and Guelph ended up with roughly five to 15 cm.
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Many people helped their families, friends and neighbours clear their homes. Ontario Premier Doug Ford pitched in. As seen in this tweet posted by CityNews reporter Richard Southern, he had a trusty shovel in hand while helping dig out a stranded motorist.
Parents had work to do, but they also took their young children out to experience this winter wonderland. Cars couldn’t get down roads but dogs ran around without a care in the world. My son was happy to be outside in the snow, too.
For a brief moment, it made me think about Ezra Jack Keats’s classic children’s story, The Snowy Day (1962). Peter, a young African American boy, enjoys everything from building a snowman to making snow angels one snowy day. When he wakes up, there’s even more snow on the ground, and he heads out with a friend on a new winter adventure. What could be better than this?
To be sure, parts of Western Canada and Atlantic Canada have witnessed larger snowfalls in the past two decades. The total snow accumulation in these regions over an entire winter is higher than Ontario’s, too.
Nevertheless, Toronto and most of Southern Ontario received equal or more snow accumulation on Monday than the significant snowfall that hit Atlantic Canada in December. Considering how mild the winters have been in this part of the country in recent years, that’s surprising.
This type of major snowstorm wasn’t an anomaly in Toronto or Southern Ontario many decades ago, however.
There’s plenty of archival footage from the 19th and 20th centuries showing massive amounts of snow. Historical photos of Torontonians dealing with snowstorms aren’t difficult to find. People are seen using shovels and early snowplows to help clear sidewalks and roads, while others are digging out stranded cars, buses, streetcars, wagons and even trains.
We used to get large snow dumps when I grew up in Toronto, too.
There was always plenty of fluffy white stuff for kids to shovel and jump in. I would build forts and throw snowballs with my friends. I’d also ride my favourite blue toboggan on large hills in our neighbourhood over and over.
I even made the trek to school one winter when I was in kindergarten through huge amounts of snow. My mother was recovering from a small operation and didn’t feel well for a week or two. She bundled me in my snowsuit, hat, mitts and boots, and I struggled to make my way to school.
The teacher knew ahead I was going to be late each morning. And believe me, I was! If there hadn’t been snow on the ground, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Alas, it was difficult for a five-year-old to climb over large snow mounds and unshovelled sidewalks that were often as big as me – and in some cases, bigger.
I came close to getting hit by a trailer truck one morning.
I was extremely tired after plowing my way through what seemed like endless snow. I struggled with every inch of my being to make my way across a small crosswalk a few minutes from my school. I’m not completely sure the driver saw little ol’ me at first. The snow was blowing fiercely and I would have been a speck on his radar. I think he eventually did because the truck appeared to gradually slow down. I barely made it across and distinctly remember holding onto a snowbank as I watched the truck go by.
One of life’s many adventures.
It’s been fun recounting a rare day of snowy enjoyment for young and old. We’ve been mostly cooped up during COVID-19, so it’s nice to experience a few moments of pleasure and excitement. Let’s hope we receive more of them – minus the snowstorm, natch.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.
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