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Blizzard blankets Airdrie in almost 20 centimetres of snow

Meteorologist says temperatures could dip below -30°C

By: Sara Wilson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Dec 05, 2013 10:58 am

A pair of road graders work to clear Yankee Valley Boulevard in the evening on Dec. 2. Graders, plows and sand and salt trucks were out in force throughout the course of the blizzard that wreaked havoc on Airdrie roads on Monday and Tuesday.
A pair of road graders work to clear Yankee Valley Boulevard in the evening on Dec. 2. Graders, plows and sand and salt trucks were out in force throughout the course of the blizzard that wreaked havoc on Airdrie roads on Monday and Tuesday.
MATT DURNAN/Rocky View Publishing

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With near white-out conditions, 17 centimetres (cm) of snow and wind gusts of up to 70 km/hr: it was the weather event that crippled Airdronian’s commute and found them digging out from the season’s first major storm.

Snow drifts – some as high as 10-feet tall – left RCMP no choice but to discourage travel on all major roads including Highway 2 on Dec. 2 and 3.

Due to the poor driving conditions the City shut down all local bus routes at 5 p.m. on Dec. 2.

Emergency Shelter

City officials transformed Genesis Place into an emergency shelter for commuters that were stranded Dec. 2, seven people spent the night, according to Lynda Phelan, team lead of corporate communications with the City of Airdrie.

“Seven motorists were taken in off Highway 2 after midnight and given a place to stay over night, they all left by 6 a.m.,” she said,

RCMP requested the city’s assistance for motorists who were taken off the highway.

The City set up a reception centre in the Rotary room and Echo room at Genesis Place.

Seven people were provided with yoga mats and blankets to sleep on, snacks and television were provided as well.

All programs and activities at Genesis Place Recreation Centre were cancelled on Dec. 3.

According to Phelan, a taxi was called to take one person to the airport in the morning on Dec. 3.

“Every municipality has their own emergency response procedure, it was absolutely the right decision to open up a reception centre for people who were stuck,” said Staff Sgt. Gordon Sage from the Airdrie RCMP.

“We asked these people if they had friends or family in town that they could stay with but most of them didn’t know anyone.”

RCMP Response

RCMP and emergency first responders were kept busy throughout the storm with RCMP reporting more than 79 calls on rural highways from vehicles that were in the ditch or stuck in snowbanks.

“It’s difficult for us because we only have so many four-wheel drive vehicles, and we’re out there on the roads too, the hardest part is just getting around and responding to all of these calls,” Sage said.

”We had no reports of injuries it was mainly people getting stuck, our biggest concern is the elements, it was very cold with the wind chill and the best option is to stay where you are and contact us and we’ll come get you.”

Snow Removal

Snow clearing equipment was deployed to each quadrant of the city, Dec. 2 and 3, to clear and remove snow where necessary from residential roads.

Between the City’s equipment and contracted services there were four truck/sanders, five truck haulers, three graders, five loaders, two backhoes and one plow truck on the roads.

“We have our full compliment of snow removal working around the clock on our priority one and two routes,” said Lorne Stevens, director of community infrastructure.

“The difficulty isn’t with the amount of snow, it’s the strong, gusting winds that keep blowing the snow that’s been cleared back on to the roads.”

The City received over 1100 calls to Public Works for problem areas or help with snow-clearing.

Residents experiencing impassable roads are asked to call Public Works at 403-948-8415 to have their street added to the list.

“The City would like to send out a thank you to everyone who is pulling together to help get our city moving again. From neighbours helping to dig each other out to developers including Hopewell in Reunion, Mattamy in Windsong, Melcor in Kings Heights, and Vesta in Williamstown who have put their own equipment into action to help dig out cars and clear streets,” Phelan said. We appreciate our wonderful citizens and businesses pitching in during this extreme snow event.”

School Closures

Rocky View Schools board of trustees (RVS) made the decision Dec. 3 to close all schools within the district due to “severe weather.”

Ecole Francophone d’Airdrie – not within RVS’ district – was also closed due to weather on Dec. 3. All Catholic schools in the Rocky View region were also closed.

While the storm packed a punch, it’s not unusual for this time of year, according to Environment Canada.

“Once we get in December, we see these type of arctic air outbreaks,” said Bill McMurty, meteorologist for Environment Canada explained.

“They are usually more common in January. There’s no real indication for the long term and there aren’t indicators of what we’re going to have.”

Last Monday’s storm was the result of a low pressure system moving south from Alaska, causing the high amount of precipitation and high winds, he added.

Airdrie accumulated 17 cm of snow, with the City of Calgary coming in at 14 cm, Springbank recorded a whooping 29 cm of snow, according to Environment Canada.

Environment Canada also recorded wind gusts of up to 70km/hr at the Calgary Airport – where more than 50 flights were cancelled.

The highest wind gust were recorded in Beiseker at 87 km/h and Strathmore at 80 km/hr.

“It was hard to measure because of the wind blowing, it looks like for the most part, heavier amounts of snow hit the south and the southwest portions of the province,” McMurty said.

McMurty said the worst of the snow is over, but frigid temperature are going to continue and are expected to reach -30°C without windchill by the end of the week.

“The good news is that the snow moves off, the cold air will stick around though due to an arctic ridge of pressure, that will bring some clearer sunnier skies for the remainder of the week, but that means cold temperatures for the remainder of the week, with a Thursday morning temperature of -30°C,” he said.

-With Files from Matt Durnan


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