JIGGENS: It’s true, winters used to be a lot more snowier

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It took until Feb. 5, but winter has finally arrived. This is what real winter is supposed to look like – below zero temperatures in the double digits for days on end and enough snow to warrant breaking out the shovels and snow blowers.

We’ve all heard the stories from those who grew up in the 1950s, ‘60s or ‘70s, about how deep the snow used to get and how cold it would be. These aren’t quite the same tall tales our forefathers would tell, such as having to walk two miles to school every day and uphill in both directions. The stories about bitterly cold days and lots of snow are true. I lived through that era and can still vividly recall those winters of yesteryear.

White Christmases were once commonplace. Anymore, there’s about a 50-50 chance of one happening. By January, we’d be skating on frozen ponds or backyard rinks and could continue to do so into March. These days, it’s simply not cold enough in this part of Ontario to build a rink that can last for several weeks without periods of thaw occasionally putting them out of service.

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I finally pulled my parka out from the closet on Feb. 5. A smaller winter coat was all that was needed before that. There used to be a time when I’d need to wear a parka for most of the winter season. In recent years, I can pretty much count on one hand the number of days during the winter season when a parka was needed.

Up until Friday, I’ve worn running shoes while outside more often than I’ve worn boots. I think I’ve shovelled snow perhaps four times only this winter prior to Feb. 5, and none of that was particularly backbreaking.

Is this the result of climate change we’re experiencing, or is it just a fluke?

We had been forewarned about a polar vortex system that was likely to hit this region, either late in January or early February. When it didn’t happen in January, there was a sigh of relief. And then the forecast for the first week in February actually looked favourable, with temperatures reaching above zero by Feb. 5. But something obviously happened during the first few days of this month, and forecasters did an about-face.

Maybe this is finally the much-anticipated polar vortex we had been expecting. As of the weekend, the seven-day forecast through tomorrow was something only a polar bear would enjoy. It’s always the “feels like” part of the forecast that grabs my attention the most, and I’m not liking what I’m seeing. Minus 18 and minus 20 aren’t good numbers.

Winter is my fourth favourite season. The good news is that March is less than 20 days away, and then spring arrives just a short time after that. Maybe the groundhog was onto something when he predicted an early spring.

Until then, it would seem it’s back to the boots and parka for the time being and hopefully not so much the shovel. On the bright side, maybe this is just what we need during this pandemic – to be driven back into our homes.

Hang tough. Spring is right around the corner.

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