TORONTO —; It’s January and, for the first time ever, most of Canada and the U.S. northeast is experiencing winter conditions, including cold temperatures and snowfalls.
Alright, it’s not the first time ever.
In fact, winter conditions have been part of life in these regions for as long as anyone can remember. The only people with a legitimate reason to be surprised by bone-chilling cold and knee-deep snow in January are newborns.
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On Monday, citizens of the U.S. northeast were told by their elected officials and the media to brace for a storm of epic proportions.
“This could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city,” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said. “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.”
Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker warned people to take “all the necessary precautions for this significant storm.”
New Jersey governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency —; before the storm hit —; and warned of “a serious and significant weather event.”
READ MORE: Coverage of the blizzard
The sense of panic was heightened by media reports. USA Today quoted AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines calling the mix of wind and snow “a recipe for disaster.”
The warnings were enough to convince millions of people to stock up on food and water and prepare to stay indoors and, presumably, hug their children a little tighter.
Schools and offices were closed. Plans were cancelled. Public transit was shut down. Thousands of flights were grounded.
A significant piece of the engine driving the economy of the most powerful nation on earth was switched off as —; wait for it —; up to two-feet of snow was coming.
Tuesday morning, New Yorkers awoke to a winter-like blanket of snow on the ground. The travel ban was lifted. Transit service was restored. The historic blizzard was downgraded to a winter storm.
A winter storm. In January.
At least one forecaster apologized.
BELOW: Global News’ Jackson Proskow talks to Global Edmonton Morning News about the storm hype.
To be fair, winter storms can be devastating. A 21-inch snowfall in March 1888 crippled New York City for two weeks. A December 1947 blizzard dumped 26 inches of snow and claimed 77 lives.
But, things have changed since streetcars were pulled by horses and A Streetcar Named Desire was opening on Broadway.
Major cities —; and the people who live and work in them —; are better equipped to stay warm and safe in the winter.
Yes, snow causes all sorts of problems and makes life difficult (and dangerous) for vulnerable people, but does it still have the power to paralyze a metropolis? Is it really better to err on the side of caution and make a snow mountain out of a molehill?
More importantly, why does the concept of a snow storm in winter seem to surprise so many people? Shouldn’t we always be ready for cold and snow between November and March?
READ MORE: 5 of the worst blizzards in New York City’s history
Canadians shouldn’t judge the reactions of our neighbours to the south.
We are issued Extreme Cold Weather Alerts during months when extreme cold weather is expected and we’re warned of snowfalls at a time of year when snow typically falls.
Yes, it sucks to live in a climate where the weather makes your face hurt and your toes tingle for a few months a year —; but it’s been a fact of life since dinosaurs roamed around the Saddledome.
Being prepared for the worst saves lives but maybe it’s time we stop being surprised by winter weather in winter and just be prepared.
Instead of panic, let’s have some calm before the storms.
And during the storms. And after the storms.
John R. Kennedy grew up in Ottawa, where he built elaborate forts in snow banks and shoveled driveways for $5.