Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 10, 2003
Outsmart that Old Man Winter
Go right back to what Mom said -- zip up, layer and wear your toque
By SUZANNE ELSTON
As a kid growing up in Edmonton, the coming of winter meant donning a very special uniform. From the first frost in late autumn until the early days of spring, the dressing ritual was the same. My sister and I would start with an undershirt and leotards, followed by pants and a couple of sweaters. Snow pants and a parka of some kind would follow, and then we'd begin to dress our extremities.
A hat, the hood of a parka, two pairs of mitts and several pairs of socks later and we'd be ready for the final stage of preparation.
At this point, we could no longer effectively bend in the middle, so my mother would help us on with our winter boots and then wrap a scarf around our forehead and cheeks until nothing was exposed but our eyes. She would knot the scarves firmly at the back so we couldn't untie them, and then with a hardy, "Have fun kids," she'd shove us out the door to play, walk to school or head across the street to the neighbourhood skating rink.
We'd mumble something at her from beneath the depths of our wrappings and then waddle out the door like a couple of astronauts bound for the depths of space. What was so remarkable about this ritual was that it was unremarkable. It was replayed in every house in the city, day after day, week in, week out, for the entire season.
It was winter and we knew how to dress for the cold. We knew that if we let our scarves slip, our nostrils would likely stick together when we took a deep breath, and that our cheeks with burn with frost when we returned home.
In half a lifetime, all that has changed. Last winter, I made it through the entire season without snow boots. With the exception of a soaker or two, I was none the worse for the lack of winter footwear. Thanks to global warming, cold temperatures and heavy snows are no longer the norm. In fact, heavy winter weather is such an anomaly these days, we've forgotten how to deal with it.
Ironically, this lack of consistently cold weather can make winters even more dangerous. Motorists seem to forget how to drive in snowy conditions, which invariably leads to traffic congestion and serious - sometimes fatal - accidents.
The all-season radial has replaced snow tires on the car and chains in the trunk. Parkas have been replaced by three-season jackets and ski masks that were once the uniform of every pre-teen boy, are rarely seen off the slopes.
In short, we've become soft on winter. These past few weeks when the temperature has dropped to what was once considered normal for Canadian winters, we retreated into the warmth of our homes. I'm ashamed to say that I've even curtailed walks with my dog on days that would be considered balmy by childhood standards.
In true Canadian fashion, we have the option of confronting Old Man Winter head on, or retreating. Whatever your choice, here's a few suggestions:
If you're heading outside, dress appropriately. Wear a hat, gloves, winter boots and several layers of loose fitting clothing. And as my mother would say, "Don't forget to zip up your coat."
When driving, always remember to keep your tank at least half-full. This will help prevent gas lines from freezing. Top up windshield washer fluid every morning. Visibility is critical to safe winter driving. Always make sure windows are free of ice and snow before driving and carry a scraper and snow brush in your car at all times. Just in case, carry an extra blanket or two in your trunk.
If Old Man Winter has been making himself comfortable inside your home, an investment in caulking will pay for itself in energy savings by winter's end. Window insulation kits are also an effective way to shut out the cold.
Recommended websites:For more energy saving trips, visit Natural Resource Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency website at oee.nrcan.gc.ca. For more about weather trends and patterns visit Environment Canada's weather website at www.msc-smc.ec.gc.ca. Visit Natural Resources Canada's Facts About Canada site and find out what is the wettest, coldest, driest, sunniest, warmest or foggiest city in Canada. Go to atlas.gc.ca/site/english/facts/superweather.html. Blizzard Attack! Offers everything from winter driving tips to how to keep your house warm. In also has a glossary of winter weather terms and a lesson plan for teachers. Visit weathereye.kgan.com/expert/blizzard/index.html.
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