Winter is here.
Every year this moment – when it becomes absolutely clear that's it and we are going to have it for the next four to five months – remains as worrisome for me as it was for the Starks.
The first winter storm of the season caught me in Regina. Leaving Estevan Friday evening with forecasted weather already had me in doubt. Fortunately, I made it fine and could get things done on Saturday. But Sunday morning was different.
I started by digging out my not-so-old but faithful four-wheel drive and it did its job on slippery neighbourhood roads and going through snowdrifts. But I didn't make it too far. Most intersections were blocked with cars and SUVs stuck in snowbanks – little surprises from the night snowfall. So, after half an hour of trying to get out of the hood, I ended up returning to where I started.
The plans for the day got cancelled, and I didn't need to make any further decisions on whether it was smart to try driving somewhere or not. The rest of the day I spent watching falling and blowing snow and cleaning the sidewalk. Even though roads got smoothed a bit with traffic by the end of the day, the road services didn't make it to those last priority areas even on Monday, and I ended up helping to push a car out right in the middle of the street in the afternoon.
My original plan was to head further west this week, yet with the second winter weather system coming from Alberta into southern Saskatchewan and snow in the forecast I ended up playing a waiting game.
I love travelling, but any time of the year it's a bit of a puzzle. I plan in advance, book time off, co-ordinate what I'm doing with others and pack accordingly to get the best out of it. And once I have it all set up, I dive into my adventure. Winter adds to this process.
I did all of the above to spend a week in Calgary. And then winter arrived, freezing the Prairies and my plans. I stayed put for the beginning of the week, but to tell you the truth I felt like a bit of a chicken. Was I right or wrong in my decision?
Should I have tried to hit the road and actually get to where I was planning to be? I'll never know the answer, but I know that at least that way I didn't put my own life at risk, along with the lives of other people, including first responders, if something was to happen.
It's always best to know road conditions before you leave, and there are many ways to check it. There is a Highway Hotline (www.saskatchewan.ca/highwayhotline, in case you haven't used it before). There are various local and regional road condition groups on social media, where people share their most recent experiences. We at the Mercury and Sasktoday.ca post weather warnings and alerts as fast as we can, so that our readers would have an idea of what to expect from Mother Nature. Other media try to be on top of the weather too.
But even though weather forecasting is a science it's not an exact one. It may help to save lives and minimize property damage. But here it sometimes changes so fast, that to me the waiting game in winter is often the best I can do. And if it means coming up with new plans, so be it.
Most times, if the roads are not closed, even if the weather is not the best, it should be okay to travel if you do so with caution and adjust your speed and driving manner accordingly. But my rule of thumb is if my inner alarms are on, I shouldn't go. After all, I believe our intuition is not a kind of magic, but rather our previous experiences analyzed unconsciously and summed up as a piece of inner advice. It's up to us to listen to it or not.
Of course, some plans are more difficult to rearrange or cancel. But getting things done out of the ditch (or worse) might be more difficult. So, I tend to think of weather as just another component to take into consideration, when planning on travelling, especially at this time of the year.
And after all, once you evaluate all risks, musts, pros and cons and put your travel puzzle together, it is a personal decision to go or not to go.
I chose to be a chicken for now, but I'm sure there will be many more puzzles to put together and enjoy.