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Mur-Écran (Windscreen)

If you know me, you probably already know that I’m not a fan of rain. Yes, we need it, and plants do too, but that’s why God invented irrigation, I figure. I used to joke that some enterprising mayor should build a huge transparent dome over their entire city so the residents would never be rained on again. I’d move there in a heartbeat.

It may not be a rain screen, but the sub-arctic mining town of Fermont, Canada has the next best thing: a windscreen. The temperature there routinely drops to below -20°F in the winter, and that’s before you include wind chill. The myth is true: you can literally toss a pot of boiling water into the air, and it will freeze before it hits the ground.

The town was centrally planned and built by the Québec Cartier Mining Company (now ArcelorMittal) in the early 1970s to service the Mont Wright iron mine. Faced with brutal cold and punishing storms, the town’s designers conceived of a massive, 1.3km long building that would shield the residents from the prevailing winds out of the northwest. During the worst part of winter, 7 months per year on average, the entire town can hole up in the Mur-Écran (windscreen) building and never have to leave. So cool!

I first heard about Fermont and the Mur-Écran from one of the podcasts I listen to, CBC‘s radio show Ideas. Check out their full story for more pictures and the hour-long show.

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