What a strange beginning to the winter. The mid-north of Ontario experienced a late winter, with almost no snow until a week before Christmas. I could see people jogging in their shorts, where normally they’d be cross-country skiing in their parkas. No complaints though – once it hit, it hit hard. I remember watching the big storm in Wisconsin as the Green Bay Packers played a home game. We were getting the same storm, although we were about 800 miles away.
Across Canada, there have been a number of weather-related incidents. On a highway west of Quebec City, there was a 30 car pileup on Highway 40. At least 20 people were hurt, with one listed as serious. The roads were icy and several vehicles, including tractor trailers, were sent spinning off the highway. As always, most people follow as closely when driving in the winter as they do in the summer. That’s often not enough as hard braking often results in skidding. And braking in slippery conditions requires a longer margin for error than in optimal summer conditions. People often forget what they’re doing once they get behind the wheel and revert to their usual habits. That can be fatal in the winter.
Speaking of slippery, the west coast hasn’t escaped the winter conditions. The new Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver have once again been formed to apologize for poor service, as a crash that led to a 40-vehicle pileup led to at least one injury and a huge traffic snarl. A spokesperson for the company that manages the bridge admits that it was not de-iced overnight and formally apologized. While the lack of maintenance was disturbing the apology was refreshing – so often, those responsible for problems deny in order to prevent potential lawsuits – an attitude that causes so much anger that it actually provokes the very lawsuits they were trying to prevent. So, good on you Transportation Investment Corp. Now get your bridge maintenance in order.
In this case, the corporation had hired a company to do the de-icing and they did not apply enough salt brine. As anyone knows, bridges are the first roadways to ice up, and this isn’t the place to skimp. Of course, sub-contractors like this are notorious for cutting corners. It’s too bad the bridge corporation didn’t name that contractor, since they really were the ones responsible. Unfortunately, the same bridge spokesperson was forced to apologize a couple of weeks previous to this incident when poor maintenance (or inexperience with the weather conditions after a snow storm) caused large chunks of ice to drop from the overhead cables, damaging about 250 vehicles, and injuring two people. Of course, the bridge was closed and traffic was a mess.
In recompense, the company offered to cover all insurance claims and to give free tolls to the drivers who were affected.
Brazil misses out on the slippery conditions due to snow, but they get their own version of slip and slide. North of Rio de Janeiro, almost 215 mm of rain fell in just 24 hours, causing a state of alert in the same areas where mudslides have caused hundreds of fatalities in over the past few years. So far, one person has died as a result of the rains and floods.