Much of Manitoba experienced record March snowfall and blizzard conditions last week, including the Swan River Valley. Locally, we saw all major roadways close as well as outlying schools and the cancellation of busses. Although it wasn’t quite enough to close down the schools right in Swan River, many other businesses and services were not open to the public on Tuesday and were still digging themselves out of the snow come Wednesday.
Although it was by far the worst weather we have seen all winter, we didn’t get it as bad as some.
Reports from Thompson, Churchill and other northern communities show that large amounts of snow (approximately 80 cm in some areas) combined with strong, blowing winds (up to 105 km/h gusts) to bury some homes and facilities as high as the top of the first floor. Many pictures show residents with doorways filled to the top with snow, tunneling their way out from both ends with the help of their neighbours.
And then there’s the southwestern part of our province where blizzard conditions (visibility of less than 400 metres) lasted as much as 31 hours, causing closures on all major highways and travellers to seek refuge in their stranded vehicles and, later, in many area community centres.
Following the storm all sorts of stories surfaced about snowmobilers, brave rescue workers and even a young woman and her horse coming to the aid of these travellers.
Along with these stories come many negative comments about these travellers and even about some of the rescuers.
I believe that much of our society these days runs on ‘it won’t happen to me’ thinking and, when that fails they switch to ‘someone will come and help me’. Perhaps this was the case with many of the stranded motorists? I assume that many of them either didn’t watch the forecast, didn’t believe it would be as severe or even thought they could make it to their destination before it hit. Either way, I’m not surprised at the large number of people who were stranded as we just aren’t very good anymore at waiting, even for mother nature, when we have things we want to do and places we want to be.
We have to give credit to the many Manitobans who banded together to come to the aid of the many stranded drivers. From those who went out themselves in the elements to those who provided food and shelter. But, the help didn’t end there, as many people aided their neighbours to shovel snow in the days following and transported those not able to get around by foot. It’s nice when we remember to come together as a community and help each other out.
So, what did I do during this time? I spent 36 hours locked in my warm home with my family, grateful to have power, food, shelter and no reason to have to step out the door into the elements. I had a snow day and it was good. Don’t get me wrong, I let my husband and oldest daughter do the neighbourly thing once the snow stopped but I was happy to hide indoors.