December 25, 2009

It's where I live

Edmonton in October
As I intend to share this blog with the people I meet on my travels, this post is about Edmonton, my home for the past 20 years.

Anyone reading this can view the Wikipedia entry on Edmonton Alberta and find out how many people live here, where it is, and lots of other information, so I will talk about what it is like to live here.   In many ways Edmonton is a typical North American new city.  Edmonton became a city in the early 1900's, before that it was a Hudson's Bay fur trading post and a few farms.

In summer Edmonton is suburban every-city, with nothing to distinguish or define it from its cousin cities in Canada and the US.  Edmonton like most  North American 20th century cities is all about cars and traffic, a collection of suburban islands surrounded by an asphalt swamp of parking lots, shopping malls, low rise industrial parks, copy cat chain stores,  motor hotels and restaurant franchises. Close your eyes and turn around, you could be in Abbottsford, Moncton, Orlando, or Yorkton.

 In Canada a few cities stand out, Toronto is smug in the knowledge that it is the center of the known universe, Vancouverites will modestly tell everyone they live in one of the three most beautiful cities in the world (never the 'most'), Montrealers have style unmatched on this side of the Atlantic, Calgary has its cowboys, rednecks and mountains, and Edmonton has winter.

Edmonton is Canada's northernmost southern city, if that makes any sense.  Edmonton calls itself the gateway to the North, which it is, but the true north is on the other side of the gate.

What defines Edmonton  for we who live here is our relationship with winter.  We hate it, OK, I hate it.  Winter usually starts in October, (by that I mean serious winter, Mexican or Californian winter starts in June :-)  In what is late fall by the calendar,  Edmontonians expect the first blast of cold weather.  Today, (Dec. 14) at 4 PM it has warmed up to -25 C.  (That would be about -13 F).  This morning the temperature was -36 C.  It does not get down to the minus 30's all the time, but we can expect that it will get this cold for at least a week or two some time between November and April.  The temperature is almost always between 0 and minus 20 C, overnight temperatures typically -18 or so, and it will stay that way from the end of October to mid March or later.  Not until early May do we see green again unless we visit the Muttart Conservatory indoor gardens.  


December

We do not get a lot of snow at any one time, but everything that falls will remain until Spring.  No matter how warm it gets in the very short day, the temperature will fall below freezing at night, and the snow stays where it sits, unable to melt during the brief moments of above zero temperatures.

If the temperature is going below -20 overnight cars and trucks will have to be plugged in.  All our cars have a block heater installed, which is a simple heating element like the one in an electric kettle inserted into the engine's water jacket.  When the heater is plugged into household current it will keep the engine and its fluids warm enough to start.   A car that is not plugged will be difficult if not impossible to start, depending on how cold it gets, it is also very hard on an unheated engine  if it does start when temperatures are extremely cold.

When Edmonton has a cold snap, such as today, it is usually because an arctic high pressure zone has moved into the area.  This means that severe cold is usually accompanied by clear skies and little wind.   As the high moves in and the temperature begins to drop, it will usually snow a bit.  When this happens the snow is a light and dry powder that makes a lousy snowman.   But the result is a pristine white blanket that covers everything and makes the city look bright and clean.   A light fog appears in the morning, the result of the all the chimney exhausts that keep Edmontonians warm.  The fog is actually ice fog, its particles are tiny ice crystals.

There is a sun dog in my alley, a small shortened rainbow that appears when extreme cold, bright sun and ice vapor mix.


 While Edmonton is cold, the people who live even a little farther north or even anywhere in Saskatchewan or Manitoba would laugh.  Just a few miles out of Edmonton the temperature will go to -40 when it is in the -30s in town.   In the real north, winter is when stuff gets done.  It is difficult to impossible to build roads on permafrost and muskeg, but  trucks can drive on frozen rivers, lakes and swamps.  Those who live by mountains can ski or risk their lives 'high marking'  their snowmobiles (not everybody makes it), in Ottawa they can skate on their canals, in Quebec city they celebrate with a snow man.  Edmontonians book trips to Cancun.



April!

ps; we have the best summer in Canada  Yay! 

No comments:

Post a Comment