February is traditionally a bitter cold month in Ontario. When I say bitter cold, I mean bitter cold. It’s on record as the second coldest month of the year, trailing only January by around a degree or so. February is dark, windy, cold, icy and snowy. It’s known to be depressing, grey and overall, a very blah month. I think everyone is glad that February is the shortest month, because the February weather in Ontario is not all that pleasant.
So, when we see weather above the freezing mark, getting up to 6 or 7 degrees; with sunshine, all we can do is smile! It’s like it’s springtime in February. Getting up to 6 or 7 degrees in February would be a record for warmest dates recorded.
But with the warm weather at such a early time, and so quick after a month or two of steady below zero temperatures, we need to be careful. The snow and ice is melting. This impacts the streets on which we drive, the walkways where we walk, the water levels of our rivers and streams, and those not so frozen lakes where we may be accustomed to ice fish or snowmobile around this time of year.
Trends we tend to see with rising temperatures during an uncommonly warm winter or after a fast thaw:
Rising and racing rivers, streams and water levels: This is a real concern for people who live, or who play by streams and rivers. They are traditionally calm this time of year and might be used for winter weather activities (skating, ice fishing, snowmobiling or winter weather hikes). With a good week of temperatures above zero, those sort of activities go out the window. These streams and rivers become increasingly dangers as temperatures quickly go from freezing, to well above the freezing mark for an extended period of time. And because these warmer temperatures are falling outside of the traditional winter season…Well…We just aren’t used to that sort of thing. Accidents tend to follow. So keep an eye out for those water hazards.
Another thing to keep an eye out for with rising and running rivers during a snap thaw is water damage to property. Flooding in basements or ice damming is very common when during freeze-thaw cycles. Ice damming occurs when snow and ice accumulates on the roof of a home/structure; and gets under a roof’s shingles, and suddenly thaws. The water has nowhere else to go but down under the shingles, and through the roof shell and into the home. Some insurance policies cover damage caused by ice damming. Some cheaper home insurance policies do not. It’s best to speak with your insurer, or insurance broker about what coverages you have, and don’t have. It’s also best to speak with your insurer or insurance broker that if you have those coverages, how much will be covered in case of an insurable event under your policy. There is only so much a personal injury lawyer can do if there is a legitimate denial under your policy for something which isn’t covered.
Snow and Ice begin to melt = everything is wet and slippery
Before everything gets dry, and all of the snow and ice melt, it gets really wet and slippery. Those surfaces which were once stable or safe to walk on are now wet, slushy and slippery. Just because its getting warm or has been warm for a few days in February does not mean that winter is over and that we are all immune from slipping and falling on ice. It’s still February. It’s still the winter. Some of the snow (but not all of it) is starting to melt, but with the melt brings less stable footing for everyone, so be mindful of where you step (and how you drive for that matter).
More cyclists and pedestrians at this time of year than we are used to
You know what’s a lot of fun when the weather warms up? Bike riding and just going outside for a walk. Motorists may see more cyclists and pedestrians out and about around this time of year than we are accustomed to seeing. Motorists need to be mindful to share the roads with cyclists and pedestrians, and vice versa. The roads may be more narrow due to the accumulation of snow (which is slowly melting) which is also of concern. Less space to operate increases the chance for accidents to happen. This is why it’s important to be mindful of your surroundings and others who are using the roads. When a car hits a pedestrian or a cyclist, it’s always the cyclist or the pedestrian who will come out worse for wear. The cyclist only has a helmet to protect them. The pedestrian has nothing. The motorist has the benefit of a car, bumper, seatbelt, ABS breaks, front and side airbags and all sorts of other safety technology to keep them relatively safe. The cyclist and pedestrian, in comparison to the motorist have next to nothing from absorb any impact from a collision (minor or serious).
The risk of the flash freeze
It looks like the weather is going to be reasonably nice in the next few days, with temperatures unseasonably over the freezing mark. But, just as quickly as temperatures soar above zero; those same temperatures can quickly go down well below the freezing mark rather quickly. So all of that snow which is melting and pooling can quickly freeze and turn to ice; making for staking rink like slick surfaces to walk upon. What’s most remarkable about the winter are the temperature shifts of 10 degrees or so, which can make all the difference between a “nice” winter day vs. a treacherous one when it comes to winter weather conditions. So, as nice as it can get over the next few days, it can quickly go to dreadful, icy and snowy just as quickly. So don’t store those winter tires quite yet, and hold on to those snow boots. I suspect you’re still going to need them before the winter is done.
But for now, enjoy this unseasonable warm snap. It’s a pleasant surprise!
Is February the new patio season?