Of Heater Plugs and Roof Clearances

“So, how many times have you used that plug this winter?” came the question from my fellow citizen today at the Post Office. He was looking at the plug attached to the three varieties of engine heater (block, oil pan and battery blanket) that are hiding beneath the small hood of our little Yaris.

I had to stop and think about it. Mostly it needs to get down to -30 or so before I need to use the plug, but I did try it out once and used it that night after I discovered the prongs on the Yaris’ plug had been bent and needed straightening before I could hook everything up.

I do have long, flexible extension cords running from the outside outlets at the front and back of the house, just in case they’re needed. The one leading to the parking pad in the back lane where the car sleeps is the only one I’ve used this winter.

“Once,” I replied.

“Me too,” he came back. “Just one night.”

It’s not that there haven’t been warm winter spells at various times during my 30 years here in Dawson, but this particular winter does seem to be one for the books.

The natural ice arena has been shut down this week with the hopes that the ice will hold up long enough for this weekend’s big hockey tournament. With teams coming in from all over the northern Yukon and some from the NWT, the local group doesn’t want to disappoint anyone.

It’s approximately -5°C on the Thursday that I’m writing this. The hockey folks are hoping that it will actually get to the -10 or -11 – that is forecast for tonight and Friday.

Yesterday I was walking home from a meeting of the World Heritage Committee Advisory Group when a Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder of my acquaintance stopped to caution me about not walking too close to some of the steeper pitched roofs in town.

In this weather, he said, the snow layer next to the metal roofs tends to melt and get liquid enough under the returning sunshine to pose an actual danger to a person if it should all let go and slide off the roof and hit them.

He’d nearly been hit by some falling snow load some time back and remembered just how scary that had been for him.

I’d already noted that some of the businesses in town have put up caution tape and were clearing their roofs before they could slide on their own.

Some of the flatter roofs in town are being cleared for other reasons. As the snow load warms up, it compacts and gets heavier. One section of the Westminster Hotel was cleared off a week or so earlier. The curling rink section of the Fry Recreation Centre has a roof envelope (as the engineers call it) that was installed incorrectly 15 years ago and has to be kept clear because it can’t take a lot of weight. Two guys were up there with scoops as I continued on home.

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