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Big Snow No Snow

Land Rover KalahariThis past weekend most of eastern Canada was treated to some more snow. Now, the general feeling seems to be that “We’ve had enough, thank you very much.” It’s therefore entirely possible that I’m setting myself up for some unpleasant emails by admitting this, but I was actually quite happy to see another 10 or 20 or 30 cm of snow. I don’t even mind that some groundhog named Willie has proclaimed there will be another six weeks of winter. This is Canada: we’re supposed to have snow in winter.

Besides, this past weekend the temperatures were a relatively balmy -1 to 0 degrees Celsius, so my hair didn’t freeze the moment I stepped outside the door. There was also virtually no wind, so the flakes just floated gently to the ground. All in all, the snow event was quite civilized, and I was prepared –– thanks to some sixth sense that told me I was going to actually need them this year, I got my two favorite pairs of winter boots upgraded with snow-gripping soles about a week before the first snow last Fall.

As a Newfoundlander, I’m happily (and proudly) obsessed with the weather. I still dream of snow storms that can shut down a city for a day or two or three… of operating the winch that controlled the plow on my dad’s Land Rover so he could clear our outside-the-city-limits road… and of drifts so high that a German Shepherd could use them to just walk right over the fence that normally kept him in the yard.

I won’t admit that I still occasionally walk in deep snow banks to see if I can relive the annual childhood tradition of getting my foot stuck… though I have posted pictures to Facebook after taking my Land Rover out to play near snow-covered trees, so that horse has left the proverbial barn.

The Weather Network app on my iPad has become one of my favorites –– hourly forecasts at my fingertips!? And I thoroughly enjoy the long-distance banter and private weather lessons that have become possible thanks to Facebook and Twitter. On Saturday, for instance, variations of the phrase “Big snow, no snow… small snow, lotsa show” were being discussed. That particular saying was used regularly by my grandmother, Nan Barron (refer to “Man on Horseback” for more on her).

The meaning is pretty clear: if the snowflakes are big, then the accumulation will be small; when the flakes are small, the accumulations will be large. The size of the flakes, combined with the intensity of Nan Barron’s arthritis pain, provided very effective weather forecasts when I was growing up. Which is a good thing, because The Weather Network didn’t even exist at the time.

After posting this saying to Facebook, my cousin Wynn-Ann in Toronto weighed in on Facebook. She remembered my other grandmother, Nan Morry, phrasing the saying a little differently: “Big snow little snow; little snow big snow.”

A wee bit later, my Aunt Sheila decided it was time to set all of us straight with: “Big snow–small snow. Small snow–big snow. So there.”

Clearly, there were plenty of variations, but at least they all meant the same thing… and all of them were correct, in Newfoundland.

However, when I tweeted the saying to Chris Murphy over at The Weather Network, noting that the snow was small in Waterloo, he cleared something up: lake effect snow –– which is what we were getting –– is a BIG exception to the rule. With lake effect snow, when the flakes are big, so are the accumulations. I’ll admit, I was skeptical when I first read this explanation… but sure enough, we got our accumulation. Kenneth will talk about that more tomorrow.

For now the editor in me wants to revise the old saying into something more reflective of our modern times:

“Big snow, no snow (or small snow); small snow (or little snow), large snow. Some restrictions apply. May not be applicable in the Great Lakes region. So there.”

Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it… I guess our grandparents had a better nack for making observations that relied on pithy common sense, and not disclaimers! But who cares: whenever someone says any version of that phrase, it means snow is coming. Whatever size it may be, I’m certainly happy about that.