Bravo to the heroes of the storm

If you have decided to delete “Let It Snow” and “Dreaming of a White Christmas” from your list of favourite holiday tunes, you probably spent Christmas at home, trying not to think about the plans for the first family gathering since COVID – or rather, the celebration that should have been, had Mother Nature not decided to brew up an intense winter snow event.

What was dubbed “the storm of a generation” in the days before it hit, and a good many less printable things during and after, turned out to be a grim reminder of what not to do when the authorities issue warnings about extreme weather. At the top of the list is, do not ignore the warnings. Sometimes we get lucky, and the weather turns out to be not as bad as predicted. Sometimes the tornado misses our area. Sometimes, like this past Christmas, the predictions are dead-on accurate.

We were warned to avoid travel, even though it was the start of the Christmas holidays. Most of us paid attention, especially in our part of the province. Weather is something we take seriously. Unfortunately, enough people ignored warnings that news reports were filled with scenes of multi-vehicle messes on the highways.

When people venture out in horrendous weather, they are not only risking their lives and the lives of anyone else on the roads, they are also unnecessarily jeopardizing the safety of the emergency responders who might need to rescue them – police, firefighters, paramedics, tow truck operators and Good Samaritans who stop to help.

This is one situation where people are either part of the solution, or they are part of the problem. There is nothing in the middle. Paying attention to storm warnings and staying off the roads frees up emergency responders to deal with genuine emergencies. Every abandoned vehicle in the middle of the road is one more obstacle that must be dealt with before rescue and snow removal operations can take place.

We can and do scoff at the accuracy of weather predictions, but warnings about that storm kept a lot of us safe over Christmas. Most of us can remember times when we were thankful we heeded a forecast for summer storms and had rain gear handy when we needed it, or postponed a boating expedition until the weather report improved, avoiding a miserable and potentially dangerous experience. Add this “storm of a generation” to the list of times an accurate and timely weather report kept us out of danger.

We no longer have to check the stripes on a caterpillar, observe the behaviour of squirrels or ask grandma about her sore knees to get some idea of what the weather is going to do. Science has provided the ability to predict weather with impressive, often pinpoint accuracy. The one thing science has not managed to do is give people the sense to pay attention when the meteorologists advise us to stay off the roads.

We all know someone who takes great pride in being able to drive through anything. When it comes to driving skill versus whiteout, the dice are loaded in favour of the whiteout.

We also know of people who have been caught speeding, in a winter storm, to get the kids to hockey on time. Unless the kids have an NHL contract, and maybe even if they do, getting them to hockey is not a reason to risk lives. It qualifies as unnecessary travel. Come to think of it, most trips fall into that category. Unless we are emergency and medical personnel, the exceptions would include such things as dialysis.

The need to see beloved relatives over the holidays might add a certain urgency to plans, but the safety of those people takes priority over our desire to spend time with them.

That said, warmest thanks go out to the folks who welcomed stranded strangers into their homes during the storm, and to the tow truck operators, hydro workers, firefighters, paramedics, police and medical people who braved the storm, so we could be warm and safe – heroes one and all.