Snow piling up

Yes, Red Deer residents, we are now officially knee-deep in snow.

A truck adds to the growing mountain of snow as a Border Paving Caterpillar pushes to make room for more at the city’s Edgar Snow Storage Facility Monday.

A truck adds to the growing mountain of snow as a Border Paving Caterpillar pushes to make room for more at the city’s Edgar Snow Storage Facility Monday.

Yes, Red Deer residents, we are now officially knee-deep in snow.

According to Environment Canada, the city’s snow pack is 47 cm (or 18.3 inches) ­— well within sight of the all-time record of 56 cm set on Jan. 30, 1974.

Red Deer received the equivalent of a whole month’s worth of snow — 22.4 cm ­— in the first half of January, said John McIntyre, meteorologist for Environment Canada. (The average January snowfall is 21.4 cm.)

“You got higher than average snow and colder than average temperatures,” McIntyre added, and that has combined to produce quite the snow pack.

Even snowplow drivers were commenting on it as they were working hard to clear roadways this weekend.

“Some of the guys were saying they were the biggest windrows they’ve seen in 20 years,” said city roads supervisor Jim Chase on Monday.

The City of Red Deer had to supplement its own fleet of four graders with seven contracted ones in order to clear the thick blanketing of snow from major roadways and bridges this weekend. Chase said 16 snow removal trucks were needed to transport all of it to the city’s two storage sites.

Since snowplow drivers had their hands full just trying to remove all the white stuff from high priority areas, such as bridges, hills and main thoroughfares, Chase said the clearing of Priority 3 bus routes had to be temporarily suspended.

But now that the arterials are clear, work on bus routes is expected to begin today. And Chase is reminding drivers not to pass snow blowers on the left side, which would mean moving vehicles into oncoming traffic.

“Just wait the two or three minutes it takes to fill the back of a truck.”

Chase is pleased that temperatures, which have seldom risen above -20C over the past week, are about to get substantially warmer. Today’s high is expected to hit a more seasonal -6. “It should help with the removal, because if it’s softer, it’s easier to scrape.”

The warmer weather should also give tow-truck drivers a break.

A dispatcher from Key Towing said customers were having to wait two hours for service, instead of the usual half-an-hour, because of all the battery boosts and tows that were needed by motorists with vehicles stuck in snowbanks.

Taxi drivers were also considerably busier — especially when wind chills turned -25 degree weather into -35C, said Associated Cab owner Daryl Frenette. He noted some customers had been waiting longer for service because residential streets weren’t cleared, and “you can’t speed on ice.”

McIntyre said it takes a while for cold air to move along, but it’s starting to happen with more of a westerly flow coming through. Temperatures are expected to go to zero on Thursday and remain above freezing for the weekend.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com