Oh, snap! February could set a cold weather record
You’ll notice they don’t call a period of prolonged low temperatures a “wave” or a “spell” or anything similarly salubrious.
Nope, it’s a cold snap, named, perhaps, for the sound of breaking plastic bits on your car on one of these -25 C mornings, or maybe the crackle of a falling weather record. Not that there have been many individual markers broken in the frigid introduction to 2015 — a period more notable for its chilly duration than any particular daily extreme.
But one significant record — coldest February in a LONG time — could be in sight. For the first 12 days this month, Ottawa’s average temperature, day or evening, has been -14.8 C. The lowest February average on record was -14.3, in 1979.
“We have about half the month still to go,” says Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, “but looking at the forecast for the rest of February, it’s looking pretty chilly.”
Still, temperatures should increase, if only slightly as the days lengthen and the planet draws closer to the sun. The month’s usual average temperature — its average average? — is -8.1 C.
From the start, Environment Canada predicted this winter would be harsh, though “I don’t think necessarily to the depth of cold, though, that we’re talking about,” Coulson says. “When we went into this winter, we were thinking it was going to be somewhat colder than normal, but not necessarily as cold as we dealt with last year.”
Instead, after an up-and-down December, January was colder than last year and February? Well, it’s been a good month for car battery sales. Batteries degrade in hot summer months, but wait for winter to show their limitations. A battery loses half its power at -18 C, so one that’s already weakened isn’t going to spin a cold engine.
“For us, there’s a lot of automotive battery sales on a day like today, as well as a lot of booster pack sales — a lot of people buying some extra insurance,” Dave Hull of the Ottawa-based Total Battery chain said Friday.
His hot new product is a lithium-battery booster pack ($119 to $129). “They’ll fit in your pocket and they have over 400 cranking amps. They’re rated to start a V-8 5.7-litre truck.”
Despite the cold front parked (and seemingly abandoned) over much of the eastern continent, Geoff Coulson says it is possible to enjoy the season if you dress for conditions. “Hibernation can be a long time in Ottawa if you’re basically saying I’m not going out if it’s anywhere near cold.”
The manager of the new Sporting Life store at Lansdowne Park says people are indeed searching out the right gear and putting it to use.
“We’ve seen a definite spike in winter coats, hats, mitts and face masks,” reports Hank Shannon.
“People are embracing the outdoors and having a lot of fun.”