Sheilah Roberts

For Maids Who Brew and Bake

Rain, Drizzle, and Fog - Reviews

The Joys and Sorrows of Newfoundland Weather


The Northeast Avalon Times - “Stories about province's weather are delightful. In "Rain, Drizzle & Fog," Sheilah Roberts has gathered many of your favourite weather stories ( and even some you didn't know, I am willing to wager...mixed them with history and science, and topped them off with some classic expressions. I am testament that this bok, Roberts' first since the equally absorbing "For Maids Who Brew and Bake" of 2010, will provide hours of pleasure...Rain, Drizzle, and Fog” is delightful fun and entertaining education. I am surprised nobody thought of writing it before now but am happy Roberts has done so.” Jean Graham.

Goodreads - Jan 17, 2015. Caren rated it 4 of 5 stars

Unless you are a meteorologist, you may think a book about weather in one locale sounds pretty dull. Ah, but if that locale is the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the extremes of weather experienced there could fill (and has filled) a book. The author has produced a very well-organized and engaging account of what the hardy residents of this province contend with year after year. I like her approach: she has divided the book by season and begins each season by looking back to the earliest historical accounts of weather in the province.

She peppers each section with weather lore and sayings, along with scientific explanations as to whether they are valid. She has enlivened the text with lots of interesting old photographs too. The ones showing snow up to rooftops with tunnels through to the doors of houses, or those of people standing on snow at the level of housetops will give you pause. (In fact, "snow" seems to be a pretty significant weather extreme left out of the title.) The very early weather stories can give you a mini-history of the province. Here is an example from the "Winter" section, pages 57-58:


Colonists at Ferryland, in the Colony of Avalon, experienced a hard winter in 1629. Lord Baltimore probably shivered as he wrote these words to his friend Sir Francis Cottington: "in this woeful country, where with one intolerable winter, we were almost undone. It is not to be expressed with my pen what wee have endured." Baltimore described their hardships in a letter to King Charles I of England:

From the middest [middle] of October, to the middest of May there is a sadd face of wynter upon all this land, both sea and land so frozen for the greatest part of the tyme [time] as they are not penetrable, no plant or vegetable thing appearing out of the earth untill it be about the beginning of May nor fish in the sea besides the ayre [air] so intolerable cold as it is hardly to be howse [house] hath beene an hospital all this winter; of 100 persons, 50 sick at a time, myself being one and nyne or ten of them dyed. (end quote)

Moving on in the "Winter" section, we come to the year 1982, for which the account reads (pages 77-78):

On February 15, 1982, the offshore semisubmersible drilling rig Ocean Ranger capsized and sank off Newfoundland on the Grand Banks, 274 kilometres east of St. John's. Eighty-four men died, 56 from Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada's worst marine disaster since World War II. (end quote)

She continues with primary source materials giving details of the gale-force winds and high seas which led to the disaster.

Winter and spring may bring snow and ice, so you might think the brief summer provides a respite from extreme weather, but no, now we encounter torrential rains, flooding, hailstones, and lightning strikes. The author says, on page 169:


On August 12 and 13, 2002, one storm in central Newfoundland produced over 10,000 lightning strikes and destroyed approximately 300 transformers, costing Newfoundland and Labrador Power about $1 million. A large mass of moist unstable air mixed with a mass of warm air and resulted in an unusual amount of electrical discharges. (end quote)

So, after reading page after page about such extreme weather, you begin to wonder about the people who survive there. I can say from having met a few residents of this province, they must survive by helping each other. I have never met such kind, considerate people. So, if you should venture to the easternmost point of continental North America (which is Cape Spear, just nine miles southeast of St. John's), be prepared for some chilly, unpredictable weather, but for some very warm and welcoming people.

The Telegram - Weather and wordplay

Robin McGrath

Published on April 11, 2015

“Rain, Drizzle and Fog,” Sheilah Roberts’ new book, is an interesting account of the vagaries of Newfoundland weather, with some Labrador weather thrown in for good measure.The work is divided into 12 chapters, one for each month of the year, and each chapter gives historic accounts of that month, relevant weather folklore and an explanation of the weather science that helps to explain the events recorded. From earliest times, Newfoundland’s settlers and visitors obsessed about the weather, and Roberts draws on the letters and diaries of merchants, military, missionaries and ordinary working people, giving snapshots of the country and its weather from the 1500s on.


Denise Flint

Published April 2015

There are some fascinating bits of history here. One learns, for example that early settlers believed that weather was consistent across latitudes, so they expected the weather in St. John's to be similar to that of Paris. They soon realized their mistake. ...whether mauzy, misky, or even loggy, the weather is always a fascinating subject to talk (and read) about.

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