You’re Welcome #1, winter in southwestern Ontario

It is Boxing week in Ontario (extended from Boxing Day, which was removed by government from being an official ‘day off’ for retailers in the late 90s; poor retail workers lost a guaranteed 2 days Christmas break, but shoppers rejoice). For some, this week provides a holiday from work. For many, it’s a special time to wrangle retail crowds for deals and Christmas gift returns. For others, it’s a welcome spread of consecutive days away from work, to travel for outdoors winter recreation and visits to hometowns, family and friends.

Popular outdoor activities (if there is snow on the ground) include skiing (ranging from local smallish hills in towns and cities to the bigger slopes in the Collingwood to Orillia region), toboganning, tubing, skating and hockey.

Other ubiquitous sliding creates travel mayhem on slippery roads and sidewalks. It’s a risky lifestyle, driving winter conditions in southwestern Ontario, especially when there are heavy, accumulating snowfalls.

Snowfall tends to be greatest to the east of the Great (and other) lakes because of lake effect snow. Some roads are closed when the storm snow blows, particularly Highway 21 along Lake Huron between Forest and Sauble and Highways 4 & 6 north. All are routes to play areas famous for family winter fun.

Many people plan vacation travel along these routes to cottages, hotels, motels and friends’ or families’ homes. The local road maintenance folks work hard to keep the roads open, when possible. When not possible, the roads are closed to travel. Anyone planning to travel during winter here should consult weather information to be sure they know what’s happening and make every effort to be ‘stranded’ prepared.

The Ministry of Transportation, Government of Ontario, provides an interactive ‘current’ winter road conditions web site which is available from November to April. You can access the map at http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/traveller/conditions/ (© Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2009.)

To be prepared, keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle – not in the trunk, unless your vehicle has interior trunk access. If you are blocked by drifted snow and/or slide off the roadway, you might not be able to exit your vehicle because it is surrounded by snow.

Some basics to include in your ‘stranded’ prepared kit include:

Road map – make sure you know where you are on your route as you travel, in case you need to contact a ‘rescuer’ to locate and retrieve you from your stranded vehicle.
Cell phone – with this, you can contact a ‘rescuer’.
Wind-up radio – local AM stations might have up-to-date weather and traffic news
Wind-up flashlight; flashlight and batteries
Extra clothing and footwear
Blanket
Non-perishable energy foods – e.g., chocolate or granola bars, juice, soup, bottled water
Candle and a small tin can; matches; fire extinguisher
First aid kit
Ice scraper/snowbrush
Shovel
Small tool kit
Sand or other traction aid
Tow rope or chain
Booster cables
Road flares or warning lights
Gas line antifreeze

As for snow tires – use them to travel winter roads in southern Ontario. Why?

Science. The research and technology development of snow tires over the years means that these type of tires provide optimal driving safety.

The tread of a winter tire stays flexible, it’s softer compound realizing a greater grip level. The more open tread pattern adds to the winter tire’s ability to help you manoeuvre a snowy road.

(Want to know more about travel in southwestern Ontario during the winter? Comment this blog with a question and I’ll get back to you with details.)

I stay weather smart and safely plan to get out to capture the sights on camera because there’s snow ‘pretty’ galore. For outdoor walking I dress in layers, including a light pair of snow pants that cover my boots to the ankle to keep my feet dry. Wet feet will ruin a snow walk very quickly. A hat, scarf and gloves are essential, not only for walking, but for road travel – have them in your car to be sure to stay warm in case you become stranded.

It does happen, roads do close here and folks get their cars stuck in drifts on the roads if they take the risk of driving despite weather conditions.

When the weather information indicates a storm, I’m happy to plan a neighbourhood walk in the snow. When snowstorms fill the air with relentless flakes coldly smashing against you with blizzard wind force, you breathe more deeply, your body works harder to move forward, sound has softer edges. It’s great exercise and picture opps abound, making the walk out even more rewarding.

Best times to walk for photos are the twilights, AM and PM. I like to know the time of day for the sun (and the moon) sets and rises.

I want to luxuriate in the best light not only for photography, but for visually experiencing the deep and varied colours and textures nature can offer in winter. That rewards the spirit.

Presenting southwestern Ontario winter in pictures, with many from my old hometown, Thamesford, others from London and some from Port Burwell. There are a lot of them! If you can’t get through them all, please bookmark this page so you can easily come back another day to see the rest.

You are welcome to contact me for more information about the places shown and feel free to comment, that’s always fun!

Next blog post, look for more southwestern Ontario pictures, for now, Merry Christmas, peace on earth and goodwill towards all.

(NOTE: when you click on the first picture the gallery will open bigger pics with forward/reverse arrows – it makes seeing these pics more interesting.)

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