Winter announces arrival with blizzard

Cranbrook and Kimberley try to dig out after a snowstorm walloped the two cities Monday

Top: High winds Monday morning blew down a tree into the powerlines. The tree on 15th Avenue was Cranbrook’s biggest Rocky Mountain Juniper (Barry Coulter photo). Bottom: A picnic table at the Kimberley Alpine Resort shows the amount of snow that fell at the ski hill Monday morning alone (Submitted).

Cranbrook and Kimberley’s dry patch ended with a pounding on Monday, Dec. 2, as piles of snow blanketed the two cities.

According to Environment Canada, the monitoring station at the airport reported that 18 centimetres fell before 11 a.m. on Monday, and 15 centimetres of that accumulation fell between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m.

In Kimberley, 30 centimetres was reported in Chapman Chap and more than 35 centimetres at the ski hill and Townsite.

The snowstorm caused multiple motor vehicle incidents around town, including a serious accident near Lumberton, south of Cranbrook.

Sgt. Don Erichsen of East Kootenay Traffic Services said the accident occurred at about 8:30 a.m. on Monday. An eastbound passenger vehicle lost control on a corner, crossed the centre line and spun 180 degrees, into the path of a logging truck which collided with the vehicle.

The female driver was the only one injured. She was taken to East Kootenay Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The accident was caused by a combination of conditions and inadequate tires. The passenger vehicle did not have winter tires, Sgt. Erichsen said.

Highway 3/95 was closed through Lumberton for close to two hours after the accident.

Meanwhile, the snowstorm brought down power lines, causing outages to large swathes of Cranbrook. Power was lost at St. Mary’s Catholic School, where parents were asked to pick up their children mid-morning. Amy Woodland Elementary also lost power for two hours but classes carried on, with parents given the option of picking up their child.

Cranbrook Public Works was having trouble keeping up on Monday as the weather conditions were making the heavy snow even worse.

“Because the snow continues to come down and because the temperature is warm, the snow that’s coming down is melting and creating ice where the tires impact snow on the roads. So we are having to go back over areas multiple times,” said Director of Public Works Joe McGowan.

The city had all hands on deck with four plow trucks, one grader and two loaders circulating Cranbrook. Unfortunately, one plow was out of action due to a failed hydraulic hose which could not be fixed because of the power outage.

City plows are hard at work, following a protocol of high priority roads first.

“We follow a very strict protocol of the main roads first. These are the roads that emergency vehicles would use, the hills, the curves, the roads that transit uses. After that we go to the lesser travelled roads. When those are done, we go to the side streets,” said McGowan.

After the snow stops, it takes approximately three days before Public Works can completely clean up the snow, McGowan said.

Sidewalks will be done simultaneously but are a lower priority, he added.

“It’s a combination of manpower and machinery in keeping everything running.”

Meanwhile, Mainroad East Kootenay was working hard to stay on top of the accumulation, despite a power outage at their headquarters in Cranbrook’s industrial area.

“We have lots of extra people called in plus our regularly scheduled ones. The better part of our equipment is on the road,” said general manager Jim Conley.

“It hit hard and it hit fast across the area. We had very little precipitation through the afternoon and evening (Sunday), then it just came and came hard.”

Conley said that though the snow may be finished by Monday night, the roads will continue to be a concern this week with cold weather hitting.

“The biggest concern now is the temperature drop (Monday night). That’s the biggest worry,” said Conley. “The compacted snow will freeze.”

The good news about all this snow is that Kimberley Alpine Resort is taking advantage of the early season snowfall by opening early for a preview weekend this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7 and 8, before its official seven-day opening on Saturday, Dec. 14.

“Thirty-five centimetres have fallen in the last 24 hours and there is no stopping in sight,” said Matt Mosteller, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Resorts of the Canadian Rockies.

The huge dump of snow was caused by the collision of two fronts, said Environment Canada’s Doug Lundquist.

“What’s happening is Arctic air is moving in at the same time that moisture is moving in from Alberta,” he said.

“Moisture is coming over the mountains from Alberta, spilling over into the East Kootenay. It’s the collision of the two — moist air above, Arctic air below — and it’s just really bad.”

The snow will let up Monday night and then it’s “nothing but sunny icons until Sunday,” added Lundquist.

But with the clearer weather will come cold. Temperatures will get down to the minus 20s by Wednesday, Lundquist said, and stay that way into the foreseeable future.

“It looks like it’s going to try to warm up from the west but not enough. I can’t see a big warm up in your neck of the woods.”

 

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