Column: Wintery weather brings people together

Although the snow and the ice have brought plenty of complaints, it has also brought examples of a shared effort to help each other out.

A man clears a townhouse complex with a snowblower this weekend. Getting out and helping neighbours is a necessity in a snowstorm.

A man clears a townhouse complex with a snowblower this weekend. Getting out and helping neighbours is a necessity in a snowstorm.

There have been a lot of words used to describe Chilliwack’s weather over the last few days (and maybe more expletives).

“Unbelievable” seems to be a common one.

As of Tuesday morning, says Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for environment Canada, Chilliwack had received more snow during the previous four days than it typically gets in an entire year.

The annual average snowfall for Chilliwack is 85 centimetres. Since Friday, we’ve received 88.2 cm, says Pannett.

And the winter weather is not done yet. More snow is expected Wednesday, before the precipitation turns to rain on Thursday.

To say the snow has proved challenging would be an understatement. All Chilliwack schools were closed for a second day on Tuesday. The University of the Fraser Valley, the Justice Institute of BC, public libraries and several other institutions were also closed.

City crews, which started clearing main roads on Sunday, were facing the additional complication of blowing snow as the winds picked up on Tuesday.

They’ve done a remarkable job on the main routes through town. But as more than a few letter writers have mentioned, the city’s side roads and residential streets need a lot of work. That the crews are having difficulty keeping up is not surprising, given the volume of snow we’ve had over such a short period. Nonetheless, there was a discussion a few years ago about how our snow clearing resources might need upgrading if a changing climate starts bringing more snow and less rain.

Last year’s nearly snow-free year might have quieted that talk; maybe it’s time to start that discussion again.

But while the snow and the ice may have brought complaints, it has also brought examples of a shared effort to help each other out.

Kyle Unrau wrote about his experience Monday evening. The driver of a vehicle that had been pushed free returned to help other drivers stuck on the same snowy street.

“Next thing I know there are neighbours coming out with shovels, people getting out of their cars to help the one in front of them, and in no time at all, the six cars that were stopped were all on to their destinations,” he writes.

I experienced the same thing. On Monday night I met a couple of young men who were driving around and helping out whom ever they could. By the time they stopped by to help a couple of my neighbours, they had already pushed out 16 other drivers.

That kindness may still be needed yet. Forecasters are predicting things to get worse before they get better. As Wednesday’s snow changes to rain, there is a real risk of significant freezing rain during the transition.

“Freezing rain will be a particular problem for the Fraser Valley,” said Environment Canada in a “winter storm watch” alert issued Tuesday morning. Significant amounts of freezing rain not only makes travel treacherous, it can also bring down trees and power lines.

Certainly we are all getting a little weary of this weather (especially the public works and emergency crews who have to work in it). But it’s not over yet.

Along with the usual appeal to clear catch basins, comes the prudent suggestion to stock extra supplies and prepare for possible power outages.

And while you’re at it, check on your neighbours to see if they need anything.

~ Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress