All it takes is that headline to conjure up all kinds of ideas for most folks. If you're Canadian you already know exactly what Canadian winter is, and if you're in a border state in the US you know what it means too. Interestingly enough, the further you get from the border in the states, the less most Americans know about Canada or anything that pertains to Canada (I didn't make that up, there are stats to prove it). Like weather. Yes, it's true that there are Americans that actually believe Canada has snow all year long, and yes there are Americans that also react with surprise when they hear it can get upwards of 90 degrees for days on end, in the summer. I guess they just assume Canada is another planet and/or never bothered to look at a map to see where we really are. In any case, back to Canadian winter and more specifically, snow.
If you're in a location that doesn't get a lot of snow, you probably don't realize that there are several different kinds of snow. You've probably never given it much thought because it's not something that you've ever had to deal with. So, while I don't pretend to be a meteorologist and while my terms may vary somewhat from theirs, lets go over some of the different kinds of snow, and/or freezing precip that falls from the sky.
Regular snow. Regular snow is just that, nothing exciting or particularly eventful about it. It's not windy, it's not 800 below, it's just snowing. Depending on how cold it is, this has the potential to be pretty good snowman/snowball snow.
Flurries. These are flakes that when they grow up, they'll be regular snow. Depending on how long it is flurrying, it can accumulate like regular snow.
Wet snow. This is the stuff that falls when it's either just at the freezing temp, or just below. Usually the flakes are huge, they pile up fast, they leave a layer of slush everywhere first before the accumulation starts, and it's the WORST kind of snow to shovel because its very heavy. Even a small amount of it is hard to shovel, as it accumulates quick on the shovel. This is not good snowman snow but it's really good snowball snow, if your goal is to really hurt someone with a snowball. It packs really hard, almost like a rock. This is also known as Sloppy Nasty snow.
Fluffy Puffy snow. This is hands down, the best snow of all snow. I don't know what the temp has to be to get fluffy snow, but this is the kind that is so light and powdery, it's truly the consistancy of powdered sugar (or as Canadians call it, icing sugar). It wont pack for snowballs but it's so light when you shovel it, you could almost push the shovel with one finger. At night, Fluffy Puffy snow is the kind that sparkles when the light hits it.
Stupid Ugly Snow. This is the kind of snow that's coming down so hard you can't see in front of your face, and/or accompanied by strong winds that will drive the snow into hard, high snowbanks. We have a lot of this kind of snow where we live. Kev decided to call it this when he said one day if you go out in it, you're just stupid, and if you get stuck in it or you have to shovel it, it just gets real ugly real fast. Hence, Stupid Ugly Snow. Also known as blizzards, whiteouts, snowbursts, and/or snowsqualls.
Snow Pellets. I don't know why they're called pellets since they don't look like pellets, but that's what its called. This is the kind of snow that looks like God opened a giant bean bag chair and dumped all the wee little styrofoam balls onto the earth. I call it Barbie Snowballs, since if you put one in a barbie doll's hand, that's about how big each "pellet" is. This kind of snow doesn't tend to accumulate much it just blows around all over the place.
Freezing rain. Now while this technically isn't snow at all, it should be. It's cold enough to snow, but this is precip with a serious attitude problem and refuses to turn into snow. Instead, it falls like rain but it instantly coats everything in a layer of ice. Trees, cars, buildings, pets... you name it, if it's outside it will be coated in ice. You simply cannot drive in this, and anyone who tries is either insane, or otherwise seriously mental.
This is especially dangerous if it's also accompanied by gusty winds. In the last few years we've had this kind of weather fairly often and it quickly brings down trees & power lines. I found this picture on google images by searching for freezing rain pics, and it's a very accurate image of what it looks like.
I thought of all of this the other morning when I was shoveling the driveway before leaving to head into town. I woke up later than I planned and I was trying to hurry so I was quite pleased to learn when I went outside, that the Lord had sent the Fluffy Puffy kind of snow, overnight. Shoveling was a breeze, literally, and I was done in no time.
If you're going to live where it snows a lot in the winter, if you don't have a snowblower, be glad when the Lord sends the Puffy stuff. The closer the end of winter comes, the sooner we'll be having freezing rain and massive flooding when the snow begins to melt too quickly. Fluffy Puffy stuff is a little blessing in the misery of Canadian winter.