When I was growing up, it was generally understood that “bad weather” – from the North American perspective – came from Canada and found its way into the United States. The weatherman stating that “Arctic air coming from Canada…” had frozen U.S. towns and cities had almost become a cliché.
The fact that this is no longer the case is brought home to Canadians on almost a daily basis, particularly if, like me, you like to watch the news from the States.
Without a television at my place in Montreal, I have gotten into the habit of occasionally going to the NBC Nightly News website to watch anchorman Brian Williams read the news. I’m trying not to exaggerate when I say that it has almost become NBC Nightly Extreme Weather News.
This morning, for example, I watched as weekend anchor Lester Holt started Sunday evening’s segment with extreme weather in the form of flooding in south Texas and waist-high snow in the more elevated regions of Vermont.
This type of dramatic reporting, with scenes of severe disruption at best and absolute devastation at worst, is something that I’ve become used to for many months now. The reason for this doesn’t only stem from the fact that the great nation to the south of us has sometimes been called “The Excited States”, although there is a great deal of drama and spectacle in the way bad weather news is presented. I’ve become used to this type of news because it is unfortunately occurring with great frequency these days.
This past weekend it was rain and snow; last week it was tornadoes in Oklahoma. The winter of 2012-13 saw massive and far-reaching activity-stopping snowstorms and record hot winds blew their way through northern cities in March. Hurricane damage lasts, as we all know, not months, but years and years. The summer of 2012 witnessed severe drought throughout the American Midwest. If it isn’t flooding, it’s dry as a bone.
I now look at southern Quebec as a haven of smooth care-free weather. Yes, we did have some snow this past weekend. I personally experienced a silence-inducing snowstorm driving from Glen Sutton to Sutton. At Le Cafetiere, our favourite restaurant in Sutton, my wife and I sat stupefied as heavy moisture-laden snowflakes continued to fall during our lunch. Late May, and we were gazing at a snowstorm with temperatures hovering around 2 degrees Celsius!
But as much as we could kvetch about our weather, ten minutes watching American news will convince you that it is in fact Canadians who have it good and that there are few places in the U.S. that haven’t been spared bad weather. This, of course, isn’t true, but it is the impression that watching the news gives in its highly charged and excited manner.
When I watch American pundits bemoan the paralyzed state of their political system on TV (Sunday Morning with George Stephanopoulos, 10 am on Sunday), with serious stalemates existing in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, I feel bad for them. Add to this wrathful Nature and I’m beginning to think that the U.S. seems to have lost “God’s grace” as of late.
My next trip to the States is coming up soon (we’ve recently discovered Vermont cheese and I drive to Burlington to buy Tibetan incense…) and I don’t know whether to bring galoshes, a winter coat, my cross-country skis, or shorts and sandals, or my new tornado-and-radiation protecting skin cream.