Winter hits region hard

December dealt us a brutal blow, with a 20 cm-snowfall, wind, and frigid temperatures leading to all sorts of driving mayhem this weekend.

December dealt us a brutal blow, with a 20 cm-snowfall, wind, and frigid temperatures leading to all sorts of driving mayhem this weekend.

Red Deer motorists who weren’t getting their cars stuck in half-metre snowdrifts were trying to manoeuvre vehicles over tall windrows on major thoroughfares.

Thankfully there were good Samaritans, including a man who used his specially equipped all-terrain vehicle to clear snow from 42nd Street in Grandview.

“He cleared out the back alley, and he cleared out the driveway and now he’s riding around the block clearing sidewalks,” reported area resident Donna Nast, who thought her elderly neighbours would be especially appreciative.

Nast praised this unknown “gentleman.” Like all the obliging people who were helping push strangers’ vehicles out of snowbanks, she said he was making a difference. “If he reads the paper, then bless his heart for doing it.”

Many drivers who barely made it out of their residential streets were calling on the city roads department for assistance. “Our foreman’s getting lots of phone calls from residents and even bus drivers, because we’re still running our transit system in all (the snow). But there’s only so much we can do,” said Jim Chase, roads superintendent for the City of Red Deer.

He promised, “We’re working to get on top of it.”

There were nine snow plows, four graders, a couple of loaders with plows, and some bobcats clearing priority roadways on Saturday.

On Sunday an additional three graders were contracted by the city from Border Paving to help make roads less hazardous for motorists. A fourth grader is being added today (Monday), said Chase, who hopes drivers will be patient and allow for extra time to reach a destination.

While snow clearing crews were mainly focusing on high-collision intersections, major thoroughfares, hills and bridges, they started on parking lanes in downtown Red Deer on Sunday. “No parking signs” will be put on other streets destined for plowing, and vehicles that aren’t removed will be ticketed.

A few residential streets were cleared where snow drifted onto roadways from parks and green spaces. But Chase said crews can’t do all residential streets, but will do more clearing in impassable spots as time allows.

Some city roads staffers believe they haven’t seen a 24-hour snowfall like this since the early 1980s.

Environment Canada reports 15 to 20 cm of snow was dumped on the Red Deer on Friday and early Saturday. While that amount doesn’t compare with the December record snowfall of 32.3 cm, which occured on Dec. 30 1975, it isn’t far short of the November one-day record amount of 20.3, which happened in 1938.

“Boom, it’s December — suddenly it’s all Christmasy out there,” said Environment Canada meteorologist John McIntyre, who blamed an area of low pressure from the north for the heavy snowfall.

While Red Deer could see another couple of centimeters of snow mid-week, McIntyre believes cold will become more of an issue.

An Arctic high-pressure system bringing frigid temperatures and windchills of -30 is expected to stay throughout next weekend.

The only bright spot might be for merchants hoping the cold and snow will spur more Christmas shopping.

“People might have to warm up inside the mall, and try not to catch the flu,” added McIntyre.

Stores weren’t overly busy on the weekend, but Barb Hegge, a clerk for At Wick’s End in Bower Mall, believes poor driving conditions were keeping people away.

Once the roads are cleared, having some snow on the ground should be a big inducement to Christmas shopping in the weeks to come, Hegge predicted.

The weekend weather has already prompted other kinds of shopping — Peavey Mart manager Fred Pye said his store was cleaned out of snowblowers by mid-day Saturday and can barely keep up with the demand for snow shovels.

“I’ve got two people (assembling) snow shovels and we’re blasting them out as soon as we can put them together,” said Pye, who’s hoping to get more snowplows in early this week.