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Monday, 12 March 2018

Flash freeze

This has been an unusual winter. We had a month of deep freeze weather followed by two months of freeze and thaw. Flash freezing has occurred several times. When I was a child, I have a vivid memory of what I believe to be a flash freeze and the conditions my family faced one night. Two archival photos on-line recently reminded me of the event.


We lived with my Dad’s father in St. John’s from the time I was born until I was three. Then we moved to Maddox Cove, next door to my mother’s family. The photos show images of Petty Harbour, a neighbouring community, in the 1950s, which is part of my memory.





We had a car at that time and one Sunday, went to visit my grandfather in St. John’s. That evening, on our return home, it was icy. I imagine a mild winter day when the water is running and then the temperature drops. A flash freeze is the result. 


We drove through Petty Harbour and rounded the point of land on the road to our home in Maddox Cove, just a mile away. A few minutes later, Dad came to a dead stop. My three year old self in the back seat became aware of a discussion my parents were having about the dangerous road.


Snow had melted from the mountain on the left side and ran over the road which was positioned above a cliff. This road would be equivalent to a cow path by today’s standards. We had stopped by the Big Gulch, and on the passenger side of the car, we could look down into the gulch, where the waves broke over the cliffs, sending spray skyward. The headlights shone over the ice surface which sloped towards the gulch. I don’t remember a guard rail in place along that treacherous road but I imagine there was a fence like the one in this photo.




No wonder I was scared.


There were no studded snow tires but Dad had chains in the trunk. Somehow, he and my mother put chains on the tires. Dad steered our car as it crept over the ice with the chains sounding like jingle bells. At least that sound was comforting. I remember the sense of relief when we drove past the danger. 


The images of the gulch and the ice are as vivid to me as if they happened yesterday. I wonder if my father, who would have been in his early thirties at that time, ever had second thoughts about driving home over that treacherous road?

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Seeing these pictures and reading your memories is very frightening. I can only imagine how difficult that was for each of you.

Anvilcloud said...

Phew! That's quite a memory.

Love the photos.

Yes, it was that kind of winter -- very cold and then freeze and thaw.

DJan said...

It sounds like it was terrifying, and I'm glad it all turned out so well. Strong memories, well told. :-)

PerthDailyPhoto said...

It does sound like a terrifying event Marie but I'm sure your dad would never have put you in danger, he was brave though 😨

Shammickite said...

I've been on the road through Maddox Cove and Petty Harbour a few times, and I loved seeing those old photos of how the road used to be. When I was a child in England, there were no snow tires or even studded tires, but I remember the buses and trucks and even some of the cars having chains on the wheels when it snowed.

Joanne Noragon said...

Oh, what vivid memories. I grew up at the end of a glacial moraine, and there were so many hills and valleys. Roads are built on ridges, just like Pretty Valley; there is nowhere else to build them. I too have a memory of my parents stopping the car to put on the chains to continue the journey.

Rhodesia said...

Scary stuff, good job your Dad carried chains. Take care Diane

William Kendall said...

Your parents would have been glad to get home that day.

Down by the sea said...

That sounds frightening, I hope you and your family have been safely at home when the flash freezes have recently occured. Sarah x

Debbie said...

wow, scary stuff!! i remember the days of chains on ires, a thing of the past i do believe.

i posted the information you asked for on my blog!!!

Elephant's Child said...

It sounds terrifying. Not something we ever experienced here.
And those fences... Essentially decorative. They wouldn't have kept anything safe.

bill burke said...

Your parents were probably very nervous but carrying those chains was a life saver. I can imagine the big sighs of relief coming from both your parents when you got home. What a memory to have stored all these years. Thanks for sharing, Marie.

Keith Smith said...

Well, you cant say your childhood was dull and boring. I'm back, caught up with my other writings (Sci-Fi stories), now perhaps I can write on the blog again.

Barbara said...

Gosh. Some of the memories we make in life stay with us and pop up on rare occasions. I can see why this one stayed with you.

The Happy Whisk said...

I can feel your sense of relief, after passing the dangerous parts.

Jenn said...

Oh wow, I bet he was 'white knuckling' it through that stretch! Funny the things we remember isn't it?

jenny_o said...

Just a few degrees can make a critical difference on wet roads. I'm glad you got home safely.

Marie Smith said...

My parents never mentioned that experience again. It stuck eith me though, Mildred.

Marie Smith said...

A snow storm again tonight, AC.

Marie Smith said...

Strong memories indeed, Jan.

Marie Smith said...

You are right, PDP. Dad must have thought the situation was manageable.

Marie Smith said...

I remember chains were common on cars way back when, Shammi.

Marie Smith said...

Those roads were treacherous, Joanne.

Marie Smith said...

I guess the chains were a must, Diane.

Marie Smith said...

i imagine they were, William.

Marie Smith said...

We manage to stay off the roads during such times today, Sarah.

Marie Smith said...

Thanks so much, Debbie. I am going to be selective in what I get printed, rather than print everything. It’s just too much at this stage.

Marie Smith said...

The fences were poor decoration too, EC. I cannot imagine what purpose they served.

Marie Smith said...

It is amazing how the images have stayed with me, Bill. Mom and Dad never mentioned it again.

Marie Smith said...

Glad you’re back Keith.

Marie Smith said...

This situation impressed a three year old, Barbara.

Marie Smith said...

I know, HW.

Marie Smith said...

It is indeed, Jenn.

Mage said...

Amazing.

Catarina said...

Very dangerous. Very scary.

Marie Smith said...

Foads can turn treacherous in minutes, Jenny.

Marie Smith said...

It was, Mage.

Marie Smith said...

Indeed it was, Catarina.

The Happy Whisk said...

:-)