The word started getting around late yesterday afternoon. You could see the evidence on the streets of Charlottetown – cars were jamming the parking lots at Sobey’s and Superstore, pedestrians were casting anxious eyes towards the sky. Were those clouds full of moisture? Was the wind veering around to the north west? Is that a funny ring around the sun?
Children coming home from school started chattering – what would Boomer say on the news tonight? More reflective adults remembered the “huge storm” we were supposed to get last weekend, the one which never materialized, and thought that maybe they would check other sources as well as Boomer the Weatherman.
[As an aside, there are some Islanders who swear by Boomer and his forecasts and some who, equally emphatically, swear at them. I recall talking to a couple of farmers one day. We were brought together at a friend’s farm for an old-fashioned milk-can dinner. I’d never even heard of this, let alone eaten one.
It turned out that you took one of those big metal containers that people used to carry their milk to the dairy. They would be collected every day from the farm gate, and returned empty on the next run. In to the milk can you put husked corn, standing upright on the bottom. Then you added layers of food – sausages and cabbage, potatoes and onions, whatever food you had to hand really. Four cans of beer were then opened and poured over the food, and the top sealed. The milk can was placed on a fire and heated until steam came out of the top, then left to boil for a precisely determined period of time.
Watches checked and cooking time confirmed, the can was removed from the fire and the lid removed. The food was brought out by tongs, and to my surprise was miraculously still in definable layers – no sloppy mix of vegetables here, none of what we used to call “mum’s modge” after a stew had simmered too long on the stove.
As we were waiting for the food to cook itself in the can the conversation got around to the weather. “You can never trust those TV types,” spat one famer, “especially in the summer.” “Aye,” concurred a second, “especially on Thursday or Friday, they always tell you it’s going to be a sunny weekend and so you get out in the fields and it pours down.” “That’s for the tourists, they don’t want them thinking ‘ah I’ll forget PEI this trip it’s gonna rain’ so they tell it wrong on purpose.”]
So anyway, there we were, Monday evening and even the Weather Network has the Red Screen of Doom, a sure bet that something nasty this way comes. We check the firewood situation, and the water, and make sure we have 3 days of canned food handy because you don’t want to be opening and closing your fridge or your freezer when the power is out for that length of time.
[Another aside. We lived in the Maritimes before, and survived 5 days on the Old Maryvale Road in Antigonish County because the power crew didn’t realize that we and three neighbours were on a different switch. The last two days we sat on the deck looking at the lights across the valley, thinking that we had to get ours back soon. Then we thought to phone and see what was happening. “Sorry,” they said, and sent someone out to turn on the switch, but nobody came to help us throw away the no-longer frozen food from the freezer.]
So this morning we were awake with the confused robins that appeared in our garden last week, a full month before we usually see them. They were sitting on the branches of the pin cherry tree, pecking away at last year’s fruit as the snow came tumbling down. The cars were already covered, and Stevie had been with his rig and plowed out the drive. We pay him for the year, it’s always a gamble as to whether he’ll need to come or not, and how many times. Last winter we had over 4 metres of snow and he was out nearly every week, but this year it’s only been a couple of times.
Downstairs and we turn on the radio, as does every family on the Gentle Island on this not so gentle morning. The wind is gusting and buffeting the snow around, cutting visibility and making it look worse than it is. No prairies blizzard this, 40 below and the snow so thick you need a rope tied between the house and the barn or they won’t find you until spring, but beautiful all the same.
The radios chatter on, and then it comes – the Storm Line. The card game scheduled for tonight at the Old Hall has been cancelled – but that’s not a good gauge, the players are all pensioners and they cancel that as soon as they see a snowflake. Ah, the Western School District has closed all its schools for the day – that sounds more promising. Although they are up west, over 60 kms away, and maybe the storm will keep to that end of the Island. The Old Timer’s hockey game this afternoon has been cancelled – no good, that’s nearly the same demographic as the card players.
Here we go … a flurry of announcements … Little Precious Day Care is closed, the open house at the new Gallery in town has been postponed, all schools in the Eastern School Board are closed for the day (are those cries of celebration I hear, echoing down the street?), Holland College has closed … and now the University, no, wait, they are on a delayed opening, more news at 10.
Sigh. Every other organization on the Island has closed for the day, but not the halls of academia. Not yet, anyway. Another cup of tea is made, and I finish the crossword in the Globe and Mail. Now 10 a.m., and time to check the Storm Tracker web-site. Yes! UPEI has closed as well.
It’s an official snow day! Everyone on the Gentle Island relaxes, puts their feet up, sits by the fire and reads the paper, does those inside chores that have been waiting for ages.
But not me.
I suddenly realize that I work from home now. I have no treacherous roads to navigate, no snowy parking lot to clamber over, no need to drag my Snow Goose parka out of the closet. I didn’t hear me on the radio, cancelling my work for the day.
I sigh, and head downstairs to my basement office. I don’t think I like snow days any more.