February was cold all over

As most of you know only too well, February was cold – really cold – in a whole lot of places.

Sistrugi (ripple) patterns in windblown snow on Lake Champlain at sunrise. NCPR Photo of the Day by Andy Sajor

Sistrugi (ripple) patterns in windblown snow on Lake Champlain at sunrise. NCPR Photo of the Day by Andy Sajor

Indeed, all 50 states had temps at or below freezing heading into Feb 27, although Hawaii can only get in that game thanks to its taller mountains, including 13,796′ Mauna Kea. While it’s not the first time all 50 states have seen freezing together, (it was also remarked upon earlier this winter, in Nov 2014) the quirk seems out-of-place by late February.

In Northern New York, this month’s pain showed up in things like frozen water pipes and dairy farmers worrying about frozen manure.

Ontario’s been shivering too. Here’s how February felt in Canada’s largest city, according to the Toronto Star:

The city has extreme cold alerts on 31 days so far this winter, with Monday and Tuesday breaking cold-weather records for February.

“This will set the stage for the first time an entire calendar month has been below freezing in the Kitchener and Toronto Pearson Airport areas since February 1978,” Environment Canada said.

By late February as many as 40 large buildings in Ottawa were dealing with no water due to frozen pipes, as detailed in this Feb 26 article from the Ottawa Citizen:

There has been a “significant” increase in the number of calls to the city about suspected frozen water pipes over the past two weeks, according to the memo sent to the mayor and council yesterday by Dixon Weir, general manager of environmental services.

Temperatures in Ottawa haven’t risen above -3.5 C during February, with the average high at around -11 C without windchill, according to Environment Canada data.

While charting casualties, CBC reports the City of Ottawa is responding to 44 cases of property damage damaged by snow removal equipment in Ottawa thus far, including 14 cars.

City solicitor Rick O’Connor said that equipment has also damaged other property: mailboxes, fences, sprinkler heads, all whose owners may have to be reimbursed.

“The damage likely occurs when these things get covered in snow and cannot be seen by subsequent plows, so many of the incidents have taken place in the last few weeks,” he said in an email.

Frankly, I’m surprised that count isn’t higher. It can be ridiculously hard to know what’s under city snowbanks.

Amazingly, Ottawa is under budget for snow removal costs this winter. So far. But maybe that’s not so amazing as Ottawa’s snowfall hasn’t been excessive, just the cold. (The savings get set aside in a reserve fund for heavy-snow years.)

Quite recently my spouse noticed the plastic surround below his car bumper was cracked, even though he did not recall hitting anything. While we may never know what caused that damage, we did take note of this CBC story: “Modern plastic vehicle parts cracking under winter’s cold temperatures

Ottawa body shop manager Aleks Koundakjian said mirrors, headlights and tail lights are other examples of modern vehicle parts that aren’t built for this record-setting winter with temperatures consistently dropping below -20 C.

“It’s just the nature of the plastic itself,” he said. “There’s really nothing you can do about it.”

As February grinds souls into a state of numb endurance, Scott Feschuk wrote about ‘The nine stages of Canadian cold” for Maclean’s Magazine, subtitled: “Inuit have dozens of words for snow. Canadians as a whole have hundreds of swear words for winter.”

Here is stage number 5:

“Regretting your life decisions” cold. The moment you step outside, the internal monologue begins. “Why do I live here? Why don’t I live somewhere else? I should live somewhere else! I should move! I should move to California! I should move to California today!” This is usually the point at which you realize the plow has left a furrow of snow as tall as a pony in front of your driveway.

But if you can’t beat it, build an ice igloo, eh?  As covered by CBC:

Al Mackenzie and Dan McGuire of Oxford Station began freezing hundreds of ice blocks in January to pile up in the backyard.

“Dan and I were having a few pops one night and we kinda said, we’ve been to many types of parties,” said McGuire.

“We’ve been to four-wheeler parties, we’ve been to pond parties, the list just goes on and on and on. But we’ve never been in an igloo party. So what two better guys to build an igloo and have a party.”

The inaugural party on Feb 21 reportedly featured shot glasses made of ice.

Ottawa Tourism wants you to know a really cold February does make for pretty good ice. The RIdeau Canal set a new record for consecutive days of skating: this Sunday it'll be 51 and counting.

Ottawa Tourism wants you to know a really cold February does make for pretty good ice. The RIdeau Canal set a new record for consecutive days of skating: this Sunday it’ll be 51 and counting.

On a similarly upbeat tone, Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is smashing its old record for most consecutive skate days. This fact got posted on NCPR’s Facebook page and garnered 153 likes.

And it’s exceptionally good ice too. As Bruce Devine, the manager of skateway operations for the National Capital Commission, told the Ottawa Citizen’s Blair Crawford (with video):

“It’s been great skating conditions. Some people have told me it’s been too cold, but it sure did help the ice quality. The ice thickness is excellent. The average thickness is 65 centimetres … and the quality of the ice is just perfect. Almost no air bubbles. It’s clear ice. It was naturally frozen. The consistent cold makes for the nice ice quality. Is it easier? I wouldn’t say that. It’s hard on the crew. Imagine the guy at 2 a.m. watering and flooding the ice. It’s pretty cold for them.”

But when was that happy, crowded, sunny photo taken, hmm? Dollars to doughnuts (or BeaverTails) it wasn’t this past February. No, here’s a photo actually taken quite recently that is more reflective of the current reality.

Image credit: IGer @aktottawa

Hearty Rideau Canal Skaters embracing a hard-to-like month. Image credit: IGer @aktottawa, Ottawa Tourism Facebook

Still, it can be fun. If you dress right and stop thinking of warmer places.

It really is good ice. And who knows? It could last into early or mid-March. (Check current conditions here.)

Here’s one more happy thought: this particular February is over.

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2 Comments on “February was cold all over”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    I’ve always liked the cold, liked winter more than summer, liked fall more than spring.
    I once tried to get my dad to move from Detroit to the Algoma country north of the Soo.
    My only problem with winter is paying the bill for heating.

  2. Scott Miller says:

    So it’s now March and spring is on it’s way, right? What’s the saying? “In like a lion (or a bear?), out like a lamb.” We’re all hoping for the lamb to show up instead. And it might, the feds forecast for the immediate future tells us we’ll see above freezing temperatures for a day or two this week. On the other hand, we’re still looking at a couple of negative nighttime numbers. So it’s no lamb but no lion either. Here is where ‘trickle down’ may actually exist, though outside anyone’s notion of economics: the sun’s wealth will miserly trickle down it’s warmth and we’ll hungrily sop it up (like those Walmart workers getting their 50 cent raises.) This is going to be a slow recovery.

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