It has been more than 10 years since Red Deerians saw snow in September, but the signs of colder days ahead hit Alberta with a vengeance.
“We shouldn’t be talking about snow this early in the fall,” said Bill McMurtry, Environment Canada meteorologist.
Four cm of snow fell in Red Deer on Monday.
A forecast for more snow and a killing frost tonight is sending gardeners scurrying to pick vegetables and cover or pick flowers susceptible to frost. Even the weekly downtown Red Deer market is cancelled on Wednesday because of the weather.
The variable weather this time of year, said McMurtry, leads to great swings in temperature and conditions. This was on display over the past week as highs over the weekend reached 26C, followed by overnight lows around 0 C and a recorded four cm of snow Monday.
The first cold weather system began late Sunday and brought the snow with it. This was quickly followed by a second system late Tuesday evening that brought with it more snow.
“We could see some more snow,” said McMurtry. “It looks like most of it, the heaviest amounts, should be in the foothills and the front ranges of the mountains. Areas west of Hwy 22.”
South and southwest of Red Deer saw much higher accumulations of snow. Calgary International Airport reported 12 cm of snow.
“It’s not uncommon to see snows of that type in the foothills, but once you get closer to the QEII, it’s pretty early for us to get snow this time of year,” said McMurtry.
The last time it snowed in September in Red Deer was in 2003, when a total of 13.6 cm fell. In 1965, 24.6 cm of snow fell in September in Red Deer, the highest recorded snowfall total for the month.
More snow could be on the way for the area as Environment Canada issued snowfall warnings for areas near Nordegg, Olds and Sundre. Snow is also in Red Deer’s forecast through part of Wednesday.
McMurtry said the average for Red Deer is 0.8 days of snowfall in September.
“Once we get close to both the fall and spring equinoxes, that’s when we can see some big temperature swings,” said McMurtry. “You get a really big push of warm air northward from the south. In order for that air to go south, cold air has to be displaced somewhere else and that’s what happened with the warm temperatures leading up to this event.
“That allowed the cold air to come rushing in behind and we saw an incredible temperature change over a 24-hour period.”
This system moving through is forecast to include a killing frost tonight and into Thursday morning.
Alfred Prins, Parkland Nursery greenhouse manager and a certified horticulturalist, said the snow isn’t going to hurt plants too much, other than adding weight to branches that could cause some breakage.
However, the killing frost is much more worrisome for gardens and plants.
“Root vegetables should be fine,” said Prins. “If there’s anyone with beans left, you want to pick those. Melons, cucumbers, tomatoes — those will freeze. They have to be picked and brought inside.
“Just watch the forecast. The afternoon of any given day will be fairly accurate to that night and if it’s going to be that cold, it is time to pick.”
Flowers such as dahlias and gladiolus should be picked as well. Prins said people may as well enjoy them inside because they won’t survive the frost.
“You can pick them, put them in a container of water and set them outside during the day and then bring them in at night,” said Prins. “That will prolong their life a bit and you can still have it for a function on the weekend.”
A ridge of high pressure is building back in, which could lead to warmer temperatures in time for the weekend said McMurtry.