Incowrimo – feb 19 (part 3)


In case it means something to you, those are Caterpillar-D8’s on that hill. On a good day there can be 7 or 8 of them up there plus a Komatsu or two for good measure. And yes it’s all snow.

I managed to write several letters today and have managed to close the gap that opened at the beginning of the week. Clear blue skies brightened things up for a bit and I had time to think about snow. Weather for Canadians is like a hardened crust of bread. It can be a topic of conversation, but it’s often the only thing on the table and not very good if you don’t know how to deal with it. The weather that is.

After posting about snow a couple of days ago, fondness had me looking at a lot of footage of snow clearing in Montreal. Living there for fifteen years never dulled the thrill of hearing the towtruck horns announcing the coming parade. Like a circus complete with trained seals and clowns, the whole shebang rolled down the street in a foundation rattling thunder. Rushing out to move a car and then huddling inside to watch the procession never once seemed like privation. It made me understand what we could attain as a high mark in civilization in a harsh, northern, snow-filled land. Inhabiting Mars isn’t going to happen just by sitting around playing with our cell-phones.

Montreal is only two hours drive from here, but in approach it could be a different planet. The more I watched, the more I knew this topic deserved more than a just a passing glance. A city with more than 6,500 kms of road that gets roughly 225cm of snow every year. And doesn’t shirk it’s civic responsibility. They’re building a culture. Happily. And snow removal plays a big part.

If the above didn’t make complete sense, it translates to 4,000 miles of road that get nearly 7½ feet of snow on an average year. Often in 5 or 6 major snow ‘events’.  And event would be the proper term.

It unleashes an immense tactical operation that may go on for more than a week. 2,200 dedicated vehicles manned by 3,000 specialized employees. They take to the streets in precision, skill and training with a certain celebration of life that even in the middle of the night when I hear that massive rumble it still makes me ‘tax-dollar proud’.

Imagine if it helps, that each major event has enough snow to completely fill the Houston Astrodome to the lid. Twice. And that hill at the top of this post? More than once it’s been declared an aviation hazard and officials have demanded it lit. There are now 10 piles around the city mixed in with a dozen other sites.

It’s impressive if not just entertaining, but more important are the implications to civic life. And that’s what has caught my attention and I want to continue to write about. So along with my daily letters I’m preparing a little summation about civics and snow. Alarming and fascinating I can’t wait til my research is done.

*note: the clip above is provincial highway clearing and doesn’t represent municipal efforts but is equally amazing non the less :)

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