CITY LIGHTS: Is winter going to take the motorists by surprise yet again?
Fair and warm autumn has continued an uncommonly long time
By Antti Manninen
The Finnish Meteorological Institute predicts that the South of Finland will receive its first snow of the season this coming Sunday. Then again, the precipitation may come down as rain, too.
In the worst-case scenario, the water from the rain freezes to ice on the road surfaces.
A mild and fair and in places even sunny autumn with little rain has continued to delight the Finns for an uncommonly long time this year.
Finland has exceptionally little snow for the time of year. Only in the northernmost parts of Lapland has the ground received a white cover.
The winter is late, no doubt about it. The first snow should have arrived in Southern and Central Finland by now.
In recent years even in the south of the country there have been at least a few snowy days by this stage of November. The first November snow is rarely of the permanent kind in the south, however.
This is the perfect time to observe with excitement (and some dread) whether the southern city-dwellers have noticed that even this year the winter is nevertheless still on its way.
There has been plenty of time to prepare for the winter and to change to winter tyres.
What is more likely, however, is that the annual phenomenon repeats itself: the winter takes the southern motorists by surprise once again.
The Johnny-come-latelies, their exhausted summer tyres scrabbling for some semblance of grip, skid all over the place on Helsinki’s ring roads and elsewhere, causing hundreds of fender-benders and excursions into the hedgerows and trees.
The city’s bodyshops and insurance firms get congested with work right around the Christmas party time.
Once again people in the rural areas get to laugh at the pathological inability of Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa residents to lighten their tread on the gas pedal when the weather turns ugly.
Too short a safety distance to the car in front guarantees the rear-end collisions mount up when the going gets hairy.
The coming of the winter measures the degree of alienation of the city-dwellers from everyday realities.
It exposes the city slickers, who in their attitudes have grown accustomed to eternal summer and an easy life, and who do not even follow the weather forecasts with much more than a shrug.
The fact that the weather predictions in every possible form of mass media have been packed into a format as easily digestible as sliced sausage apparently makes little difference.
Finland has now experienced two exceptionally snowy winters back to back.
Is there going to be a third one, even if it is taking its time arriving?
In the Lapland ski resorts, the start of the season has been postponed because of the lack of snow and frosty weather. This has caused losses to the tourism business.
The country’s ski retailers have not yet lost their faith in the coming of the winter, however.
The ski factories were working full shifts during the summer months after all the stock sold out last winter. The selling of skis should pick up again as soon as the snow arrives.
The winter has its plusses and minuses.
It can be extremely unpleasant if one forgets to take into account the effects of a snowfall or icy conditions on the traffic and timetables.
Then again, with a little luck we may be able to segue from a beautiful autumn into a nice winter with light frost and a moderate amount of white snow, skipping the dreadful slushy, sleety period in between altogether.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 18.11.2011
Previously in HS International Edition:
October temperatures clearly above normal (2.11.2011)
Finnish Meteorological Institute
ANTTI MANNINEN / Helsingin Sanomat