Opinion

Column: We can’t complain winter away

A snowy Five Corners intersection in Chilliwack on Monday morning. An arctic outflow warning has been issued for Chilliwack, and the Upper Fraser could see winds as high as 90 km/hr starting Tuesday afternoon.  - JENNIFER FEINBERG/ THE PROGRESS
A snowy Five Corners intersection in Chilliwack on Monday morning. An arctic outflow warning has been issued for Chilliwack, and the Upper Fraser could see winds as high as 90 km/hr starting Tuesday afternoon.
— image credit: JENNIFER FEINBERG/ THE PROGRESS

Excuse me if I don’t join the chorus complaining about our roads.

It’s winter.

And snow happens.

That doesn’t mean businesses and property owners have no obligation to keep their walks clear. That’s part of our collective responsibility. (It’s also the law, and the best way to avoid liability.)

But to suggest that every street in Chilliwack should be scraped clean within hours of a major snowfall is ridiculous.

Despite this month-long cold snap, the number of snowy days in Chilliwack is relatively low. In fact, over the past few years, barely a flake has fallen. So should the City of Chilliwack have all the resources necessary to deal with a once-in-a-decade event?

I’d rather that money be spent somewhere else, like programs of seniors, or recreational opportunities for kids.

Sunday’s snowfall was around eight centimetres. It was messy, inconvenient, and even prompted the closure of Chilliwack schools.

But it was hardly the snowpocalypse some were suggesting.

And frankly, city crews did a pretty good job dealing with the mess. By Tuesday morning, many main roads were clear down to the pavement, while many side roads (at least at key intersections) had a healthy dusting of gritty brown sand.

For someone who grew up on the prairies like I did, that’s typical winter driving conditions. The road outside my house was snowpacked most of the winter. In fact, we’d curse the odd visit by the gravel truck because of what it did to our road hockey games.

Snow and icy roads didn’t mean you stayed at home. It meant you and your vehicle were prepared for winter driving. It meant you drove for the conditions, cognizant that even the best snow tires can’t change the fundamental laws of physics.

Winter driving is a skill, made better by understanding how your vehicle behaves in icy conditions. The whine of spinning tires as your vehicle leaves an intersection, for example, is doing nothing but polishing the road to an icy sheen for the motorist behind you.

Slower speeds and a judicious use of brakes will help avoid problems. And maintaining momentum, either in deep snow or icy roads, will help you from getting stuck.

It also helps if you actually clear all the snow from your vehicle, not just a tiny hole to peer through on the front windshield. (Seriously, I saw this Monday morning.)

The snowy conditions do make things difficult for a lot of people. The elderly, and people with mobility issues in particular, can use our support. The Snow Angel program is a great example of people helping people during difficult times. But there are other, less formal, things we can do, like picking up a few groceries for a neighbour when we’re out and about, or offering to drive someone to an appointment.

Our energy can be spent in many ways in the winter. Complaining about temporary road conditions here that the rest of the country deals with for months should not be one of them.

Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress

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