Here in the city, it’s a safe bet that most winter-weary Winnipeggers view this week’s three-day spring flurry-a-thon as a seasonal soul-crusher. A soggy-gloved meteorological slap in the face. A heartbreaking return to Manitoba’s least-beloved season, accompanied by a layer of white whose wet, sticky weight carries an inordinate cardiac-catastrophe potential for those who still possess the resolve to shovel it, rather than waiting impatiently for it to melt.
As the slowly ebbing slush temporarily turns the streets into a slippery, washer-fluid-wasting mess and the sidewalks into sock-soaking goat trails, there’s a temptation to turn our eyes skyward and utter, almost in unison, a plaintive observation: "Enough."
And while it’s true we’ll all be glad when the sloppiness has subsided and the puddles that besmear the avenues and alleyways have finally dried up, we should take considerable solace in the simple fact that, annoying though it may have been, this April snowstorm was exactly what Manitoba needed.
We should take considerable solace in the simple fact that, annoying though it may have been, this April snowstorm was exactly what Manitoba needed.
After a winter marked by relatively mild temperatures — one polar-vortex-numbed week notwithstanding — and below-average accumulations of snow, the conditions in the southern half of the province were ripe for a full-blown drought. The federal government’s Canadian Drought Monitor update for March 31 showed the potential for "severe" to "extreme" drought in an area stretching from Regina to Winnipeg and extending southward to the U.S. border. Much of the Interlake region was also in a serious moisture-deficit situation.
"We are seeing serious grave situations across the Prairies," said Environment and Climate Change Canada senior climatologist David Phillips earlier this month. "I’ve never seen Manitoba so dry as I’ve seen it this particular spring. ... It’s about as serious as you can get. And there doesn’t seem to be any kind of relief on the way."
Well, that was then. And this snowy, slushy slop is now. And it’s good news for farmers in what remains very much an agriculture-based province.
Also no doubt relieved by April’s mostly frozen showers are those concerned about Manitoba’s forests and grasslands, which had been tilting toward tinder-dry wildfire-danger conditions. On April 3, the Manitoba Wildfire Service imposed severe restrictions on camping, boating and motorized-vehicle travel across broad swaths of the southwestern and eastern regions.
Those restrictions were lifted on Tuesday.
This week’s precipitation — the largest single snowfall of the winter/spring of 2020-21 — won’t completely eliminate the concerns of the agricultural and wilderness sectors, but a thick layer of heavy, wet white will do wonders for what otherwise seemed destined to be a dangerously dry Manitoba summer.
The clouds will part. The souls, not fully crushed after all, will be restored by the next burst of spring sunshine’s warmth. Ill humour will be replaced by optimism and a quick reminder that this is mostly a pretty great place to live. And as the passing weeks push us into summer’s recreation and toward autumn’s harvest, the April snow dump will eventually seem less discouraging than it did while we struggled to navigate our under-powered vehicles and overburdened shovels through its unbudgingly weighty accumulation.
Listen to the farmers and conservationists: this snow is a good thing. And if you think they’re happy about it, just wait’ll you hear the gleeful buzzing of the millions of mosquitoes whose brief but pestiferous visits will have been made possible by this week’s sudden delivery of soon-to-be-standing water.