You might not expect to have to worry too much about falling snow in the Klondike in April. After all, this is not Alberta, where blizzards in the middle of April are common events.
Yes, it snowed on the morning of Easter Sunday here in Dawson, but it had turned to drizzle by noon when I left St. Paul’s to head home for lunch.
The snow you have to watch out for in late March and early April is generally restricted to the stuff that has gathered on our metal roofs all over town and, as the daylight hours advance, begins to slide off those roofs.
I’m thinking we might call these events “roofalanches”.
Both the general store (along Queen street) and the old Post Office (at 3rd Avenue and King Street) had the yellow or orange caution tape out by the middle of the month, warning pedestrians that the boardwalks along their perimeters were not necessarily safe places to be.
A slide really doesn’t give you a lot of warning. I recall walking out of Hair Cabaret some 10 years ago now, hearing a rumble and looking up the street to see the entire roof load of the Raven’s Nook narrowly miss a couple of people who had just walked past the store. They were standing there in shock at the near miss.
With most of the stores in the downtown core, you’re probably safe if you walk in the street, as the snow will most likely hit the boardwalk.
We inadvertently put this theory to the test during the Dawson City International Short Film Festival by parking in our usual spot beside the Ray of Sunshine drug store, just kitty corner from the Odd Fellows Hall.
The boardwalk was bare when we parked, and there was no overhanging snow on the two story building roof beside us, so we felt safe.
Two hours later the boardwalk was covered more than ankle deep in snow and ice and the slide had splashed up on the wheels and running board of our truck.
There had been caution tape stretched along the boardwalk when we parked there, but when we came back out some wag had added a hand lettered sign reading “Caution: falling snow”.
The sight immediately called to mind the tale of the Yukon Education employee whose government fleet vehicle was crushed beneath the avalanche that came off one of the hotels in Watson Lake during a routine visit to that community back in the 1980s.
As it happens, however, the remainder of Easter Sunday provided us with clear evidence of the power of a roofalanche.
A couple of days before, one of the snow slide guards on the south side of our house pulled out of the roof before the advancing snow and ice, and I saw it lapping over the edge of our roof.
There are a couple of good reasons for having one of those things in place at our house, including a deck at that leads off our bedroom, and our fuel tank, which is in the lee of the house outside my office just below.
I had gone to bed thinking that one of my Sunday chores should be to knock off any overhanging snow that I could reach, just to lessen the chance of a big load sliding off by removing some of the overhanging weight.
The mild night beat me to it and the whole thing let go in a couple of stages between 7:15 and 8 a.m.
The noise was tremendous and it left us with a very damaged deck covered in big chunks of icy snow. At least the load didn’t hit the oil tank.
I think you can guess what our summer building project will be this year.