Weather a mixed blessing

Weatherwise in Central Alberta this summer, one group’s pain has been another’s gain. August skies offered a mixed blessing for farmers and summer tourism businesses, with the latter winning out as rain clouds disappeared and warm sunny days bathed the region.

Weatherwise in Central Alberta this summer, one group’s pain has been another’s gain.

August skies offered a mixed blessing for farmers and summer tourism businesses, with the latter winning out as rain clouds disappeared and warm sunny days bathed the region.

Cynthia Leigh, president of the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce, said on Thursday that most of the town’s “sunshine” businesses — whose main income is derived from summer tourism — have come through the summer in great shape.

Some actually reported record profits in a year that started with very little promise, said Leigh, whose ventures include the Miss Mermaid and Zoo Cruise boat tours.

The latter part of the 2009 season provided plenty of sunshine after a cold, dreary start, said Leigh.

A few days of rain early in August did not seem to really hurt, she said.

“Our August was actually pretty good. Talking to several business people around town, nobody’s reporting a dismal year by any stretch, and even some of our retailers are saying that they’ve had a record year,” said Leigh.

“I think people were a little bit nervous at the beginning of the season, and the weather certainly slowed things, and people are really not sure how and if the . . . recession is affecting them.”

While the lake was slow to warm up because of the cold spring, it did reach a peak of 22 degrees during July, stayed warm through August and is still sitting at about 18, said Leigh.

But the August rain was too little, too late for farmers in the region, said James Wright, project manager with the Alberta Agriculture Financial Services head office in Lacombe.

Field crops, pastures and forages all had a poor start with a cold, dry spring that put everything behind and raised serious doubts about whether there would be much of a crop at all this year.

While any moisture is better than none, rainfall in the early part of August was of only limited benefit and came much to late to help hay crops already set back from the cold, dry start, said Wright.

At most, it provided some benefit in pastures, which continue to grow throughout the season.

There has been considerably less hay taken off than normal this year, with supplies now considered to be adequate at best, said Wright.

With crops still one to two weeks behind normal, he said farmers are now hopeful that the first killer frost of the season holds off until at least the middle of September, he said.

Whether moisture reserves now building up in the soil will be good enough to get next year’s crop started depends on what the weather brings in the coming weeks, he said.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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