On Sunday morning in Edmonton, the temperature was around -33C. Being that it was Sunday, and I had nowhere to go, I chose the wise (if lazy) option of not doing anything. I felt kind of bad about it, but sometimes it just sucks to go outside, so I didn’t.
The thing is, -33C was cold, but not newsworthy cold. It’s just what happens in this corner of the world. When it gets to the -30s or worse, we add another layer of clothing and go about our lives. Or, in my case, just put your life on hold for a day and say screw it.
This is why I have to chuckle, somewhat smugly, at the panicked overreaction to the extreme cold weather in central Canada and eastern U.S.
Toronto, the most wussified of Canadian cities, closed Pearson International Airport for several hours because of the cold. Apparently, equipment froze and there were concerns about the “safety” of ground staff out in the cold. (Apparently, Toronto doesn’t have access to Canada Goose.) How cold was it? Well, the temperature in Toronto overnight hit -25C, or, as we call it here in Edmonton, pretty cold. (To be fair, the wind chill made it “feel like” -40C, but equipment doesn’t feel wind chill.)
It’s not much better in the U.S. The governor of the state of Minnesota — a place so cold, it should be an honorary Canadian province — closed every school in the state due to the cold. The governor said the safety of Minnesota school children was the reason. Really? Was the gov afraid that dozens of Minnesota school children would freeze to death on the way to school in Duluth? The panic level in the U.S. has been ramped up by the U.S. weather service, which is actually using the term “life threatening cold” to describe the weather.
Reality check time, folks.
Sure, cold weather is “life threatening” if you’re really, really stupid. Even -18C can be life threatening if you go outside in your pajamas. If you dress properly, you can survive pretty much any temperature. If you’ve seen even one episode of Ice Pilots on History TV (and I recommend watching all of them, by the way) you’ll have seen the “rampies” and mechanics working in conditions that made Toronto’s temperatures look like Miami’s. They routinely work in -40C, and nobody’s afraid of “life threatening” temperatures.
Then there’s wind chill. More and more, people are using wind chill as the “real” temperature. It’s not. Wind chill is a guess, which is why they say it “feels like” a certain temperature. So you have temperature based on facts, and a temperature based on feelings — so, naturally, more and more people are using the feeling temperature.
Let’s just stop this nonsense now. If it’s -20C with a wind, it’s just freakin’ cold. Can’t we just leave it at that?
And it’s time we toughened up in this country. We’re Canadians, dammit, and we’re supposed to be a tough enough to withstand a few kicks in the crotch from winter. I’m looking at you, Toronto. If airports in Edmonton and Calgary and Regina and Saskatoon and Winnipeg can operate reasonably well in actual 40 below temperatures, then surely the biggest airport in the country can stay open in “feels like” 40 below.