Eyelash-Freezing Cold, Snow and Early Cherry Blossoms
Although I live in Ottawa, a city regularly visited by cold snaps, I was still a little unnerved recently while driving to an assignment along an isolated stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway near Deep River, Ontario. The thermometer on the car’s dashboard showed minus 34 Celsius, a good 10 to 15 degrees below normal temperatures for late January in the area.
For the past several weeks, wild temperatures have come to be the norm this winter in Canada. In many places that’s meant eyelash-freezing cold. Kapuskasing, Ontario, where General Motors sees how new cars hold up in cold weather, broke a 99-year-old record on Monday with a low of minus 40.1 Celsius. And without getting into the validity of windchill measurements, that value was almost minus 47 in the Kap.
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But while frostbite warnings have become a regular feature of weather forecasts in parts of Ontario, Quebec and the prairies, other Canadian regions have been experiencing the opposite effect. Cherry blossoms, which normally don’t appear for at least a couple more weeks, have burst out in Victoria thanks to unusually mild winter weather there.
Like most people, I knew that this had something to do with the polar vortex breaking up, shifting the jet stream and allowing Arctic air to move down to some places and warm air to rise up into others. But I didn’t fully understand how it all worked until The New York Times produced this visualization earlier this week.
The extreme cold, of course, also plunged down into parts of the United States. It’s reasonable to expect that some hard-hit American cities might not be as well prepared for snow and cold as, say, Winnipeg. But my hometown, Windsor, Ontario, and its American neighbor, Detroit, do provide an intriguing comparison.
About one kilometer of the Detroit River separates the two cities. But their respective responses to the cold were very different. On the American side, the governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency, the postal service stopped, schools, government offices, libraries, restaurants and businesses all closed. In Windsor, mail delivery was suspended briefly, a few water mains burst and some garbage pickup was delayed. But it was otherwise pretty much life as normal, even though the city isn’t particularly well prepared for severe winter weather by Canadian standards.
The CBC Radio station in Windsor spoke with Glenn Maleyko, who lives in suburban Windsor but crosses over to the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, where he is superintendent of the public school board. While the schools he runs were closed in Michigan, his two children didn’t miss any classes in Ontario.
Mr. Maleyko suggested that a frenzy of dire cold weather warnings on American television and then through social media increased fear on that side of the border.
“That hype started over a week ago and then social media takes off,” he said. “I really do think that social media has changed it and maybe it just hasn’t changed it to the same level over here.”
Looking for Parity
The editors over in the Opinion side of The Times want to correct an imbalance. Currently only about one-quarter to one-third of letters to the editor come from women. Now they’re committed to achieving parity through a campaign to get women — and anyone else who feels underrepresented — to write in.
In addition to emailed letters and ones of the postal variety, the campaign will include seeking out letter writers through newsletters like this one, the Reader Center, Facebook groups and other flavors of social media.
Uncertain how to start? Here’s Opinion’s guide to submitting letters to the editor. The editors will report back on the campaign a year from now.
A Different Look
When the Mounties moved in and arrested protesters who were blocking workers from the route of a pipeline on traditional lands of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia, we took a different approach to covering the event.
The situation has pitted hereditary leaders, who generally oppose the natural gas pipeline, against the elected leadership, who have signed on to the project. Rather than produce a news story, The Times’s Photo department sent Amber Bracken, a photojournalist from Edmonton, Alberta, to the disputed area twice, before and during the arrests, to produce a mainly visual report. The result is striking.
—Ontario’s vibrant, French-speaking communities sometimes fly under the radar for many people, including some in French-speaking Quebec. But their fight for the right to be educated in French, which dates to the 19th century, ramped up again thanks to cuts by Premier Doug Ford.
—The Times’s Catherine Porter profiled Rev. Gretta Vosper who remains, for now, a United Church minister — despite her belief that the story of Christianity is “not entirely true.”
—Now that Bruce McArthur has pleaded guilty to a series of grisly murders, a judge must determine whether he’ll die in jail.
—Yet another staff member at the Canadian Embassy in Havana has been struck by mysterious and unexplained symptoms that resemble those from a concussion.
—Montreal-born Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the new music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, is one of the few major performing arts leaders in the United States who is openly gay.
—“Schindler’s List,” which just marked its 25th anniversary with a limited run in theaters, is among the February offerings from Netflix in Canada.
—After a slow start to their season, Andrew Knoll found that the Calgary Flames are “evolving into a team that plays with pace, vigor and swagger.”
Around The Times
—The publisher of The Times, A.G. Sulzberger, along with two of the paper’s White House correspondents, interviewed President Trump on Thursday in the Oval Office. Unsurprisingly, “fake news” came up.
—Millennials were once unjustly dismissed as slackers. Erin Griffith, a reporter in our San Francisco bureau, argue that their real shortcoming is a slavish devotion to work.