Dodging a bullet….?

The Polar Vortex is an area of low pressure and even lower temperatures that generally stick around the poles and heavily influence winter weather. The North Polar (Arctic) Vortex has danced around a bit over the past few years and gone ‘off centre’ now and then dipping as far south as the continental US. This year, it has danced more often and, recently, set or tied a record for cold in Siberia. Zhilinda hit -62.7C. It is currently just passing Japan and South Korea after dumping a lot of snow and making everything colder than usual.

Our North American forecasters are predicting the vortex to slowly move east over the next week or so and they have been predicting major snowfalls from the Rockies east to the Atlantic and as far south as even the Carolinas. BC usually fares better than our latitude-comparables inland because we are on the coast and the Pacific moderates the temperatures significantly. Still, we got real cold (for us) in November and they are suggesting it is going to happen again within days. Temperatures are predicted to go as low as 23-25F(-3/-5C) at night for a few nights and maybe doing it again a few days from now.

I have been in the Yukon when it was -40C and I have been in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal when it was cold enough to freeze your nose hair into little pins. The BC coast does not get as cold by-the-numbers but it feels just as cold sometimes due to the wind and the high moisture content. You can crunch around amongst the dazzling whitescape of a -25C Calgary day and enjoy the walk with your dog. You stay home on Vancouver Island when it is -10C and the dog won’t leave the house.

But the weather guys may have erred. I have been watching the weather and the Vortex and it appears to be re-centering a bit back towards the pole. What threatened to be a larger vortex dip seems to be a shrinking, going-back-north dip from the pictures I can find. If that is the case, we may have dodged a freezing bullet. What was predicted last week to be 23F was – last night – just below freezing (about 29F). That likely would have been handled by the stupid, little, undependable heat tapes I have been employing until lately. And tonight gets the same prediction but this time it may be right because today is much colder than yesterday. Still, our cold snap may be of much shorter duration and considerably less intensity.

“Dave! Only dorks talk about the weather! What the hell……?”

You are right. I get it. But sorry, NOT sorry. There is an OTG point to all this…..(just not much of a point but it is all I got). Here it is: As mentioned previously, OTG’ers are much more aware of weather, moisture and wind and how that will affect their day. They also consider the tides (timing and height) in those calculations as well if they are on the coast. We are also very conscious of the angle of the sun (for solar panel efficiencies), the time of the day (without a watch) and the life and actions of wildlife and even so-called civilized life. We have become extremely aware of our surroundings without being particularly aware of barometric pressure numbers, actual wind speed, actual temperatures or the humidity….it is rather as if we have integrated or become ‘one’ with all that sort of thing.

Scary weather predictions are like a slap in the face. They are getting our attention in a more formal way than our senses give us. When our senses parallel what is or is soon about to happen, it just feels like a double-check on things. But when the official, NASA, computer-based modelling and subsequent predictions conflict with our (my) sense, I tend to get involved. I try and sort out the discrepancy. It’s in my nature….

Last week we got ‘scary news’ about the Vortex. Day time highs around freezing. Night time lows ten degrees lower. Four to six days. We were gonna freeze our butts off, burn tons of wood, freeze all the pipes and use half frozen jerry-totes for water. Damn! It was gonna be horrible! But…but…but…. my ‘sense of it’ was in dissonance with the official warnings.

Still, don’t be a fool, when in doubt, take the more conservative path!

So we made sure our cisterns were full, drained the plumbing, filled the totes and brought them in along with some extra firewood. We were ready.

My ‘guts’ and my bad knee tell me that we will get a few below freezing nights and they will be short bursts (just a few hours) and that we did not need to prepare beyond the silly heat tape stage. But we did.

I may be right. I may be wrong. What I found so interesting was that I am so ‘in tune’ with it all that I was mentally debating with NASA, Environment Canada and Accuweather. Without instruments of any kind…..

…we’ll see how this works out. One thing is for sure – right or wrong, I am rectifying the whole plumbing system this coming year so that we can handle everything thrown at us to at least -15C. After that, I go to Argentina.


I was more right than I was wrong. This morning we put the water system back in operation and took a nice long shower. That meant only two days of ‘no water’ instead of five or six and our stove-wood-burn rate, tho a smidge more, is still on course for a normal January. So……. the lesson learned? Not much, really. Even if my guts and experience tell me the authorities and experts are wrong, I will likely take the safer route and do what’s needed for a worst case scenario. That’s just life. But every area is somewhat of a micro-area to some extent and we, being on the water, cognizant of the wind speed and direction and knowing our ‘neighbourhood’ better than does Environment Canada is confidence building. Relaxing. More and more the fear, concern and worry is lessened by just knowing in our bones what is really going on out here.

6 thoughts on “Dodging a bullet….?

  1. Sitting out on the deck in all that sun, I concur with your predictions of not so scary. Moved the boat sternline to the east side of my anchorage, drilled a new rock hole and just used the speed boat (tied to dock)to move the stern over, two ropes pulled tight and then fired the 120 volt dc genny to bring about 10-12 ft of anchor chain in(which pivoted the anchor into position and pulled the stern forward into deeper water) . Then a few test of water depth calculations reveal that I will have 6-9″ bottom clearance at a 0 tide. I will get 2-3 hours more solar gain on the house and batteries. Time for some wine!


    • Readers should know that Scott (above) and others spend most of their time on their boats. Even more than me, they are ‘tuned in’ to the variables and vagaries of tides, currents, wind, waves and weather. When Sal and I lived on our sailboat, we were NOT as good as they are because we were most often tied up to a wharf in the city – not at anchor. I am just saying it all a different way again but here it is: living in the city disconnects you from the natural world. Cars, elevators, sidewalks, shopping malls and every space artificially kept within a few degrees is a lot different than what the ocean and the forest shares with you.


  2. Hi Dave and Sally – always look forward to each post – and your post had enough of very cold that could be ice additions ahead. I had to clean up ice and lots of snow in December and a couple of weeks and snow in January (and since I am the snow shovel person I bought a snow blower for the deep snow). Another addition that needs an out of season storage place!


  3. I was up in Whitehorse for Christmas about 5 years ago.
    -40 with a bit of wind.
    Sunrise at 10am…sun moves horizontally across the sky…and set at 2pm.
    I went for a walk down by the Yukon River with my crappy triple layers of Vancouver clothes.
    Ducked in and out of little stores to save my face from freezing.
    I casually mentioned to another customer that I hoped they wouldnt suffer a long Winter of cold weather.
    “Nah, the wild blueberry bushes weren’t laying down after the first frost. It’ll be a short winter.”


    I kept track of the winter weather for Whitehorse after I left and she was 100% correct.


  4. Before online weather forecasts, most people were able to predict the weather just looking at morning or evening skies, what kind of clouds in the sky and other observations from nature. Such a pity that a lot of this knowledge is disappearing.
    A bad knee also seems to be a decent weather predictor!


    • We’re in the middle of it right now and, to be fair, we are also in the middle of the prediction. They were wrong. It was not as cold. NO wind. NO snow. But they were also right…it is still just below freezing….same for tonight….so, I guess NASA/EnviroCan and I found the middle ground. One thing for sure – t’aint as bad as they said.


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