Calgary weather tip #1

Avoid windstorms.

I'm not sure if I can stress this enough but, at all costs, I highly recommend staying inside when a windstorm blows through cowtown. Even if this means missing a child's naptime, dealing with irritable children and hanging out at Eau Claire Market (which has become a superb example of a city's failure to create a humming marketplace). If you fail to heed this warning, the following true story may be your own.

On October 7th 2008, I woke to a beautiful day. The weather report predicted a warm, sunny fall day and indicated that cool weather and rain was due to arrive by the following morn. I decided we needed to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while we could. So I threw the kids into the vehicle and off we went to Prince's Island. The playground was busy with a couple of daycare groups but the kids enjoyed themselves nonetheless. We meandered past a couple of art sculptures and dawdled by the lagoon watching the fountain and ducks.

Monkey boy thought we should eat out for lunch. As I neglected to pack a lunch and the cupboard was bare at home, I acquiesced to monkey boy's request. We trudged over to Eau Claire Market discovered a neat indoor playground and found a meager and slightly unsatisfying lunch. The time on the parking meter was ticking down so we finally hustled out the door to make our way across the island and suspension bridge to the parking lot. When we entered the building the day was beautiful and we had all shed our coats, but when we left there was this huge dark cloud looming in the northwest sky. Monkey boy commented that a storm must be coming. I agreed but mentally "knew" it was most likely just a small rain storm passing through the city for the bad weather wasn't due to arrive until the next day...right?! Plus the weather report mustn't have changed as there were packs of people running, rollerblading or walking on their lunch break.

We quickly made our way across the small island and were about to step on the bridge when the air temperature dropped. I told monkey boy to put on his fleecy coat while I donned mine. Lil bug was strapped into a cozy stroller and being in a typical 2 year old mode refused to put on a coat. I didn't have the patience to insist, so I jammed her coat and monkey's extra coat onto the top of the stroller. The kids wanted to throw the leaves we had collected earlier over the bridge edge but by now the wind had picked up and we had 5 minutes left on the meter. I insisted we hustle across the bridge along with the throng of runners. One third of the way across, the storm hit. You literally could see it hit us. The wind gusted and felt like a wall had hit us. The sky grew gray and dismal. Fellow bridge users were running at a funny angle and two roller bladers were clinging to the edge.

Fear entered my soul. I had one hand clamped to the stroller and the other hand became a vice grip on monkey boy's wrist. In my calmest voice I told him we needed to run so we wouldn't get wet. Really all I cared about was getting the hell off the bridge. (Have I told you that I have a fear of falling into water, wild water like a river or ocean...this fear has gripped me in the past (walking a trail in Scotland and hiking parts of the West Coast Trail) but has never come to anything).

We were about halfway across the part of the bridge spanning the river when monkey boy's coat flew off the stroller. My little worry wart son yelled that we had to get his coat. I stepped on it and bent down to retrieve it. It was then, I lost my grip on the stroller. It slammed into the guard rail. Thankfully this act only flung and pinned my daughter's coat into the fence. My panic level was escalating, my mind was racing about what to do. My son wanted to grap his sister's coat worrying that it was going to go into the water. My daughter started crying and wanted me to carry her. I couldn't take her out of the stroller and risk her flying out of my arms or not having a hand free for my son. I did not want to let go of my children. My hands were holding onto the lives of the two things most dear to me in the world. My body was being buffeted by the wind, my eyes only saw the river turning and rushing below.

Strangers stepped into my little scene. A gentleman and lady shouted above the wind saying they had the boy's coat, monkey boy grabbed his sister's coat (fearing nothing but losing a coat), they helped me straighten the stroller and gave me the confidence to not only jam the jackets further into the stroller but to move from that spot. Another man asked if I was going his way and could he help me push the stroller. Unfortunately, I was racing the opposite way. We faced the wind together, bent ourselves forward and waded through the gusts to the end of the bridge. Away from the river, the wind was more manageable. We rushed to the vehicle just as the onslaught of rain arrived. I held my sobbing daughter in my arms before buckling her safely into her carseat. I hugged my son and told him he was brave and a very good helper. I sat behind the wheel of my car, a little shaky.

We made it home. Later I found out the wind surprised almost everyone. The wind blew from 70 to 100 km/hr. It made the headlines for the day.

You may think I am being melodramatic. Perhaps. Yet the fear was real. The events were surreal and shocking to me. I have experienced the power of Alberta winds in the past. I grew up in this delightful province. I have seen many chinook winds chase winter away from Calgary and surrounding areas. I even lived in the windy city of Alberta, Lethbridge, for close to a year and walked home fom the University of Lethbridge in a 100km wind gusts (I shaved 15 minutes off my walk that day). Yet I have never experienced a fright like this. I am glad to be a mother because it has put a different spin on life for me. I am no longer the reckless crusader seeking self-gratification but a protector of her young. I'm a mother bear who will now avoid dark looming clouds and will deal with the inconvenience of restless, tired children for the sake of avoiding another storm.


Allison said...

Oh my gosh! That brought tears to my eyes! I can only imagine the fear.

October 18, 2008 at 2:55 PM  
Karen said...

Wow, that story scared me too. I would have been really scared and just as shaky.

October 19, 2008 at 3:26 AM  
Bonnie said...

Bridges scare me. Being stuck on a bridge during that kind of windstorm.. omg. You did a great job keeping the kids safe and calm, even when fearful yourself. Good job Mommy!!! (and I would have been crying in the car afterwards.. not just "shaken") :-)

October 20, 2008 at 11:52 AM