BY ANNALISE KLINGBEIL, CALGARY HERALD
Winter has returned to Calgary and this time it might be here to stay.
The blue skies, sunny weather, and double-digit highs Calgarians enjoyed on Saturday ended abruptly overnight when a pacific weather system collided with a cold dome of Arctic air and brought significant snow, freezing rain and cold temperatures to the city.
The mercury dropped from a high of 13C on Saturday to -10 on Sunday and it’s predicted on Monday it could feel as cold as -29C with the windchill.
“It’s definitely a lot colder today than it was yesterday and it’s going to stay that way for the better part of the week,” said Jesse Wager, a lead meteorologist with Environment Canada, on Sunday.
The blast of winter kept emergency officials and road crews busy — Calgary police responded to 306 collisions to midnight Sunday, including 66 involving injuries.
The city’s roads department called in contractors to help deal with the wintery blast and crews spent the weekend salting and clearing major routes while also working on trouble spots including hills, ramps and bridge decks.
“We really wanted to ensure that we had a handle on this snow event,” said Anna Blaxley, a spokeswoman for the roads department.
“We had fairly good warning and we wanted to make sure we could give Calgarians the very best conditions possible given the weather.”
Crews pre-salted major roadways and main feeder routes in and out of communities before the storm hit on Saturday.
Then, overnight they placed a pickle mix – a mixture of gravel and salt that adds traction to roads – on the roads as graters cleared major routes.
“We were both maintaining and clearing the snow in tandem,” said Blaxley.
Crews were scheduled to continue maintaining and clearing Priority 1 routes throughout the day Sunday and overnight into Monday.
Blaxley recommended commuters give themselves plenty of time to get to work on Monday morning and visit www.Calgary.ca/roadconditions to view road conditions and plan accordingly before travelling.
Wager, with Environment Canada, said five to 10 centimetres of snow was predicted to fall in Calgary on Sunday.
The white stuff is expected to continue falling throughout the week.
“Once the heaviest snow moves out of the region, we can still expect to see scattered light flurries for the next couple of days,” Wager said.
By the end of the weekend, total snowfall amounts could reach 20 to 25 cm in the northwest foothills, and 5 to 15 cm in central and southern Alberta.
The Calgary Drop-In Centre saw an increase of clients on Saturday evening and spokesman Jordan Hamilton predicted more of the same on Sunday evening as people who might normally sleep outside during summer and fall made their way indoors.
“It’s not just cold outside, it’s also wet,” said Hamilton on Sunday.
“We’re going to see a lot of people tonight.”
The shelter has been placing 170 additional sleeping mats in their cafeteria since Oct. 15 and nearby, the YWCA recently put 50 cots in its gym in preparation for winter.
“That’s 230 additional beds between the two agencies,” Hamilton said, noting the extra spaces make a big difference on cold nights.
Hamilton said the Drop-In Centre currently has a shortage of towels and warm men’s winter clothing and is seeking donations.