Big chill settles over region

Monday was the kind of day that fluffs up the feathers on those snowbirds who haven’t already flown the coop and prompts those left behind to consider spending a few weeks in Arizona.

Driving the city’s new trackless sidewalk plow Mike Cosby of the City of Red Deer

Monday was the kind of day that fluffs up the feathers on those snowbirds who haven’t already flown the coop and prompts those left behind to consider spending a few weeks in Arizona.

Across Central Alberta, people awoke Monday morning to a crisp sunrise and trees embellished in heavy layers of hoarfrost — sure signs of a big chill.

For those whose vehicles actually started as temperatures hovered around -35C, the next challenge for many was to get them out of the driveway and negotiate streets and roads that were blocked by huge snowdrifts that had built up over the weekend.

While main city thoroughfares had been cleared and sanded, Red Deer Public Works called reinforcements in to help clear residential streets that had been clogged with snow over the weekend. Jim Chase, roads superintendent for Red Deer’s Public Works Department, said extra graders were hired from Border Paving to help reopen side streets.

Clearing residential streets that are not on the normal snow route was especially difficult because of parked vehicles, said Chase. Graders cleared the centre of the streets, but people were on their own to shovel out those vehicles that were parked on the sides when the crews came through, he said.

While Red Deer drivers struggled to get out of their yards, people in the Rocky Mountain House region were hit with a record low of -37C at sunrise on Monday.

The extreme cold prompted Wolf Creek school officials to shut their schools down and leave their buses parked.

Chinook’s Edge also parked its buses, but does not shut down schools because of poor weather, said transportation director Bruce Wagner.

Chinook’s Edge normally parks its buses at temperatures colder than -35, said Wagner. While temperatures hovered around the cutoff point on Monday morning, there was additional concern on because a number of county roads had not been cleared, he said.

School officials were worried about what would happen to the dozens of children on board if a bus got stuck during the extreme cold.

Within Red Deer, most buses were running and the public school division kept all but the Gateway Christian School open.

Red Deer Transit manager Kevin Joll said city buses experienced some delays and had to detour in Lancaster and newer parts of Anders that had not yet been cleared.

Overall, however, Joll said he was “amazed” at how well his buses were able to cope.

Rick Foster, manager at Don’s Tire and Auto, said his shop is swamped with people whose vehicles have developed problems directly related to snow, ice and extreme cold.

“I am so far behind I think I am first,” said Foster.

Temperatures in Red Deer hit -35 at 8 a.m. on Monday, nudging close to the city’s Dec. 7 record of -37.2 set in 1972.

Further east, people in the Coronation area woke to -33 on Monday, almost one degree cooler than their record of -32.4, set in 2004.

Rocky’s -37 smashed its previous record of -28.7, set in 2005.

Normal temperatures for Red Deer are a high of -4C and low of -15C.

Environment Canada anticipates snow flurries today and Wednesday, with a low of -31 today and highs of -14 today and Wednesday. Skies should clear for a while on Thursday, with more flurries expected on Friday and Saturday. Temperatures will remain in the minus double digits through the week with the mildest day expected to be Friday at a high of -10 and low of -16.

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