Tis the season to be careful where you walk and where you park here in Dawson. Look up. Look waaay up (with apologies to The Friendly Giant). You never know what might be about to come down.
A former colleague at Yukon Education told me of a trip to Watson Lake many years ago. Parked outside one of the hotels there overnight, she was surprised to come out the next day and discover that the snow load on the roof had landed on her department issue vehicle and crushed the top.
It’s the daily cycle of warming and cooling this time of year as the daylight increases that does it. The snow warms up and collapses on itself, gaining weight. The bottom layer, already compacted by the layers on top and warmed by heat escaping from the roof, becomes icy and gets ready to slide. It’s impossible to say what will trigger it.
Many of the roofs here in Dawson are clear now, but some of the larger public buildings taped off the boardwalks beneath their slopes a few weeks ago to warn people of the danger.
Parks Canada had blockaded the walk beneath the Old Post Office a few days before the Percy DeWolfe Race. I stepped quickly past that area on my way to a good vantage point for photos, but the shots I have show quite a few people ignoring the tape.
It can be a risk. I remember stepping out of Hair Cabaret a few years ago and both hearing and feeling a sudden rumble up the street.
The entire load on top of the Raven’s Nook roof had let go and barely missed a couple who were just a few feet from where they could have been hurt. They were standing there in a combination of shock and relief.
The results of the melts and slides can be amusing. My next door neighbour’s roof is nearly clear on the side facing our house, but he has a roof ladder beside his chimney, which he uses when he cleans it, and the accumulated snow there is linked to another bit that hasn’t yet fallen of his front porch.
It looks for all the world as if this small patch of snow is clinging on for dear life, refusing to acknowledge the coming of spring.
The neatest sign I’ve seen lately, however, is the long tongue of snow coming off the storage shed behind the Wildflowers store (the former Dog House).
This isn’t a big building, nor does it have a steep roof, so the snow pack has slid gently forward, without breaking off, until it overhangs the roof by what must be close to two metres.
You can see from the layers on the tongue that the bottom part of it is both compact and flexible, icy but still fluid, while the upper layers have been hardened by heat, cold and the breeze into something that looks like Styrofoam.
To my whimsical frame of mind, it looks as if the building is planning to lick the old VW van that is parked next to it. I wonder how long this affair has been going on.
After 32 years teaching in rural Yukon schools, Dan Davidson retired from that profession but continues writing about life in Dawson City.