Manjul Pande Parvez recalls how she felt as if her house had turned into an igloo…
This year too, our Canada sojourn happened to begin in winter. Everyone back home wonders why we spend our winters in Canada instead of in the relatively warm and balmy winters of Lucknow. And my answer to them is to avoid the Lucknow cold! At least inside the house, you are warm and cozy here whereas in Lucknow usually, the houses are colder than the outside - there is no respite from the cold there.
But this time in Canada, it was a different story. A fresh coat of snow sends many Canadians to the toboggan hill or skating rink but when winter weather reaches extremes, it can be very dangerous. This time, from December 21 to 26, a historic extratropical cyclone created winter storm conditions, including blizzards, high winds, snowfall, and record-cold temperatures across the majority of the United States and parts of Canada. And this brought heavy snow, freezing rain and wind to Toronto leaving slippery roads, power outages, vehicle pileups, and flight cancellations in its wake. People were put through great inconveniences and heavy losses. The municipality had to declare a state of emergency. Critical bridges and roads had to be shut down. We were all confined to our houses during the entire time as there was a heavy continuous snowfall with gusty winds. There was also the danger of blowing snow. Visibility was near zero. It was a really intense storm that dumped a ton of snow in just a few days! And that snow kept on lying on the ground for days making us feel as if we were living in igloos!
We escaped the worst when it came to power outages as the power remained throughout the storm (thank God) but hundreds of Toronto residents were without power for hours which meant that people including children, old people, and sick individuals all had to fight the bitter cold by wrapping themselves in heavy jackets and duvets yet shivering within the house with a choice of frozen food only! It was much worse in the US they said.
Since I was an outsider to these climatic conditions, I wondered why there were such extremes and was told by an environmentalist that global average temperatures have increased by about 1.1 C to 1.2 C over the past century and Canada has warmed up even more. The southern half of Canada has been warming around two times that of the global average. The northern half, meanwhile, has been heating up around three times faster. There is a complex, counterintuitive relationship between rising global temperatures and the likelihood of increasingly intense snowstorms across Canada. Snowstorms and blizzards do not just pose a danger to the health of people, they also threaten the environment including the health of local plants and animals. And so, the cycle continues!
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