Winter has arrived in Central Alberta

What a difference a few centimetres of snow makes.

What a difference a few centimetres of snow makes.

People who hadn’t yet got around to getting their winter tires were lined up to for the switch on Monday morning.

People who had been thinking of putting up Christmas decorations last weekend were flocking into the stores for new supplies.

And everywhere around were the sights and sounds of people scraping their decks and sidewalks, snowplows scraping roadways, and cars and trucks sliding on unanticipated patches of ice.

“I love it,” said Louise Pusiak, seasonal department supervisor for the Canadian Tire store on the north side of Red Deer.

Formerly from Niagara Falls, Ont., Pusiak said she has fallen in love with Alberta winters and the way Halloween merges almost seamlessly into Christmas.

She said snowfalls over the weekend seem to have awakened the Christmas spirit along with a sudden demand for shovels, scrapers, heavy boots, Christmas lights and — new this year ­— a panoramic projector that plays animated scenes on the side of the house.

All of those goods are going off the shelves as quickly as they can be stocked, while the automotive department is booked ahead for two weeks by people in need of winter tires, said Pusiak.

Her pickup truck got its winter boots about two weeks ago, she said.

At the other side of the city, Rick Foster, shop manager at Don’s Tire and Automotive, said his first customer of the day beat him to work at 6:30 a.m. and more customers lined up behind him.

By 8:30, Foster and his co-workers were turning people away because they had already booked in as many cars and trucks as they could manage that day.

“Where were you the first of October? That’s when I put mine on,” said Foster.

It’s the same story every year. Some people seem to need a fresh dump of snow to think about getting their cars ready for winter, he said.

“It’s absolutely amazing how many people wait until the very last second,” he said.

With or without winter tires, drivers encountered treacherous conditions as snow started to accumulate on Saturday night and continued through to Monday, with plunging temperatures and more flurries predicted at times today.

Police reported a number of trouble spots on Hwy 2 between Calgary and Edmonton on Monday and one motorist was killed at about 10 a.m. while driving eastbound on Hwy 27.

Const. Lyle Korver said a woman from Sundre was driving up a hill about eight km west of Olds when she lost control of her minivan, slid across the highway and was struck on the passenger side by a westbound pickup truck.

Road conditions were typical for a fresh snowfall, with the travelling lanes and shoulders partly covered in snow and ice, said Korver.

Inside Red Deer city limits, sanding and snow removal on hills, bridges and overpasses got underway on Saturday night, following a new colour-coded system announced in fall.

Plow routes are marked with colour-coded signs to help residents understand where each street fits in the plowing priorities, which are triggered by accumulation, public works manager Greg Sikora said on Monday.

Purple routes — the highest priority — were triggered twice during the weekend, with plowing and grading continuing on Monday on arterial roads, identified as red routes. Sanding continues on the purple, red and green routes, as well as intersections in residential areas, identified as grey routes.

The biggest change this year is that where residential plowing was discretionary in the past, snow clearing will be triggered at a packed depth of 10 cm on residential roads, identified as grey and green routes.

Details about the colour coding program are available online at reddeer.ca or by calling the snow route help line at 403-406-8796.

Sikora said he and his crews watch the two-day forecasts and rely on many years of data in determining when and where to tackle snowfalls.

The opening days of this year’s snow removal have been quite a bit better from the previous two years because there were no issues with freezing rain, although there was a bit of ice on roadways, said Sikora.

Environment Canada’s forecast for today includes a threat of falling temperatures and more snow, with a promise of clear days ahead.

It’s going to be chilly, though.

Forecasts call for daytime highs of -15C today and -18 on Wednesday and Thursday, with temperatures dropping to -25 at night and to -27 on Thursday night.

The trend is expected to turn around on the weekend, with daytime temperatures hovering just below 0 on Saturday and Sunday.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com