No reprieve from a ruthless winter weather wallop

Despite living through 49 Thornhill winters I must confess I was unprepared for last week’s weather wallop.

Winter after winter we’ve had at least one major snowstorm when the white stuff packed every corner, crowned every building with a couple of feet unless wind blew it off as it fell. We’d hunker in the house as much as possible to wait for sunshine and blue sky to reappear. Then it was all shovels in action, hire a machine to clear the yard and driveway, and prepare for whatever came next. Often we were placated with a few weeks of clear skies.

The winter of 1968 we had minimal snow until Christmas Eve. Snowing began late afternoon as the diesel supply truck arrived to fuel our light plant. By the time he had filled the 500 gallon tank, we had a foot or more and it kept up for hours.

In early February 1976 schools closed when a storm knocked out hydro, and our propane furnace. To keep our young kids safely warm, I stayed home from work to stoke the Quebec heater.

Mid January ordinarily brought a week or so of rain but unless it raised the Skeena river or a creek to catastrophic levels for others, that too would soon pass. I recall few problems except for a puddle that would accumulate in a low spot under the walk-in gate. We drained the puddle by trenching across the driveway to the lower side of the yard.

Last week was different. First we had a heavy fall of comparatively light snow. I spent a couple of hours shovelling out my truck before rain began. Rather than keep on shovelling and end up soaked, I left off for the night.

As I figured, by next morning rain had lowered the snow level until I knew I could drive over it.

I prepared to go to town but as I sought to unchain the big gate so I could leave my yard, I couldn’t depress the tongue of the snap joining the safety chain. Rain had frozen, immobilizing the snap. It refused to budge. In no time my fingers became stiff from cold yet I was making no headway with the snap.

At my age, I take such setbacks as a sign I should stay home, safe, where I won’t create a problem for someone else to deal with. Suppose I hit the ditch on an icy patch of road? Or slipped walking on an icy sidewalk and ended up in Emergency? So much could go wrong in a blink.

My trip to town wasn’t vital. I had no appointment to keep, no bill to pay before a utility might be cut off. So what if I had to pay a late library fee? That wasn’t a reason for my trip either.

Overnight I considered my gate dilemma and a sensible solution came to me. Pliers.

Next day I depressed the snap tongue with gooseneck pliers and drove to town.

Days later this winter’s innovation struck. Rain soaked the bottom two inches of snow, before freezing solid, cementing the lower frame of every gate.

I was a prisoner in my own yard. I could not get out; no one could get in.

That bedtime for the first time in my life I felt rising panic. Suppose I needed a firetruck? Or an ambulance? Would a first responder rappel down from Thornhill’s ladder to haul me out on a backboard like an injured hiker?

That would be a spectacle for neighbours worthy of popcorn and phone videos.

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