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Oh, the snow just won’t go

Cheery thoughts that an early winter might harken an equally early spring have been abandoned for now.

Yet again, Mother Nature has dumped a fresh load of snow on Central Alberta, creating ideal conditions for skiers and sledders while wreaking havoc on sidewalks and highways.

Cars and trucks littered the ditches on Saturday morning after a storm brought gale-force winds, heavy snow and poor visibility overnight — yet another chapter in a saga that began on Nov. 2 with heavy snows and unusually cold weather.

Early Friday evening, RCMP issued travel advisories for the section of Hwy 2 from Leduc to Olds and also recommended against towing those that had become stuck until conditions cleared.

The southbound lanes near Bowden were shut down temporarily because of a collision on Friday night, with vehicles re-routed through Olds and Didsbury.

Emergency services from Bowden and Olds provided buses to rescue stranded motorists at one point, bringing them into temporary shelters until they could get back on the road.

Conditions had improved by Sunday afternoon, but visibility and slippery road surfaces were still an issue.

“It sounds like it’s pretty crummy right now.

“People that are working, they’re just busy as can be,” RCMP Cpl. Al Nickolson of the Innisfail Integrated Traffic Unit said on Sunday afternoon.

Conditions north of Red Deer were even worse than his area of the highway, which runs south from Red Deer, said Nickolson.

Among the major causes of collisions arise when conditions change unexpectedly, creating a chain reaction, he said. Vehicles in front slow down and then the vehicles following them either run into their back ends or hit the ditch.

Nickolson said people would be safer with good winter tires and if they were to adjust their driving behaviour for the conditions, including slowing down and leaving plenty of space between vehicles.

The snowstorm that started on Friday continued on Sunday, heavy at times, but not as cold as the day before, when temperatures had dropped to -20 and lower.

Environment Canada predicts that it will keep snowing until Tuesday, and then become clear and cold on New Year’s Day.

To help people better prepare for cold weather, Environment Canada is working on a new system for warning people when extreme conditions are expected.

The new system will put wind-chill and temperature warnings together rather than separating them into two separate warnings, said meteorologist Blair Morrow.

He cited an instance in Edmonton earlier this year, when temperatures plunged to -30C and wind speeds reached 19 km/h, producing a wind chill of -42. No warning would have been issued if the temperature had hit -42 with no wind, even though the risk of injury would have been just as high, said Morrow.

The new system, which could be put into operation sometime in the coming year, would warn people of extreme cold regardless of the wind chill and give information on the steps they need to take to prevent injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia.

Meteorologist Jennifer Hay said on Sunday that the unexpectedly early winter appears to be sticking around, with near normal snowfalls in the long-range forecast for January through March.

So far this year, Red Deer and the surrounding regions have already received almost double the normal accumulation for an entire winter, said Hay.

Environment Canada recorded 102 centimetres of snow in November and December, compared with a normal accumulation of 36 cm. Normals for January and February are 21 and 12 cm respectively, for an average accumulation of 59 cm during the four months from November through February.

With the current dump expected to continue through Tuesday, there’s not much relief in sight, said Hay. Her maps show a low-pressure system moving from south-central BC late in the week, bringing milder temperatures and still more snow.



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