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You call this a storm?
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You call this a storm?

As I walked through the rather lacklustre piles of snow this morning, I was reminiscing somewhat nostalgically about the blizzard of 1997. “Now THAT was a blizzard,” I thought as I pooh-poohed the easily navigable sidewalks and rather clear city roadways.

Back in ‘97, my keen-eyed roommate looked out our third-floor living room window and noticed that the “Open” sign was on at gourmet food shop Stephen & Andrews, then located at the corner of Grosvenor and Stafford, kitty-corner from our house.

I managed to push our front door open against a metre-high drift and basically crawled the short block to the welcoming lights of the corner store. Once inside, I stocked up on wines and fancy cheeses and exotic snacks. The only other customer was then-Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra maestro Bramwell Tovey, and we chatted about how lucky we were to have stumbled on this oasis of indulgence in an otherwise shuttered city.

This experience came to mind when I was trying to explain to myself why I feel weirdly disappointed in this week’s storm, which most Winnipeggers are unlikely to be talking about in 25 years.

Daryl Kuhl crosses the Esplanade Riel Footbridge Wednesday morning despite the blowing snow. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

After months of essentially being trapped alone in my house by a pandemic (other than for work, because someone has to get the newspaper out — tip your carrier!), what was appealing about potentially being forcibly confined there by a natural disaster?

Partly it’s the misty-eyed memory of childhood snow days. A blizzard seems like a free pass to ditch responsibility and just curl up with a book. No time to learn anything new — no knitting or sourdough — just blissful relaxation.

It’s also got the allure of a singular event: everyone has a story about the blizzard of ‘97 (except my co–worker Jen Zoratti; she wrote about that beautifully in her newsletter, Next, this week). A pandemic is singular too, but it’s unlikely to inspire whimsical anecdotes; it’s been too long and deadly and drawn-out, and the changes it’s wrought feel almost DNA-altering.

A ferocious winter storm, for those of us privileged and lucky enough to ride it out in warmth and safety and with ample bourbon, is calamity without tragedy. Getting through it makes us feel we’ve earned our bona fides as hardy Prairie folk — bonus points if you do it by candlelight — and pitching in with a shovel to help out a neighbour makes us feel like a community.

This storm feels more like a slap in the face than an almighty wallop, but nature can be awful and awe-inspiring and it’s good to be reminded of that power.

What are your “Blizzard of (Fill in the Year)” stories? Let me know at

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

What’s up this week

Prairie Theatre Exchange presents an online production of Tara Beagan’s Deer Woman starting Wednesday, April 20. From the program: “Lila is a big sister whose little one was stolen. She’s ex-army, but can’t seem to leave all that training behind. Circumstances converge and Lila finds the perfect opportunity to avenge her younger sister’s murder while exercising the skills the Canadian government trained into her.” The 55-minute drama runs to April 24; tickets are $20 here.

Chart-topping American pop band Imagine Dragons comes to the Canada Life Centre on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Known for such hits as Radioactive, Believer and Whatever it Takes, the Las Vegas-based act, consisting of lead singer Dan Reynolds, guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee and drummer Daniel Platzman, is on its Mercury Tour, in support of its fifth and sixth album, Mercury — Act 1 and Mercury — Act 2. Tickets are at

Halifax indie-rocker Rich Aucoin performs at the Good Will Social Club Friday as part of the Winterruption festival. Tickets are $18 at; Merin & Leossa are also on the bill.

Friday night’s Baroque Festival performance — which was to feature Dead of Winter, Canzona and Polycoro performing St. John Passion — has been postponed. See details here.

Rise Against's show tonight at the Canada Life Centre with Pennywise has been cancelled owing to the storm. Refunds are available at point of purchase.



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