Potentially historic snowstorm threatens to paralyze the Prairies

Digital Writers
·3 min read
Potentially historic snowstorm threatens to paralyze the Prairies
Potentially historic snowstorm threatens to paralyze the Prairies

The strong winter storm that began across the Prairies Saturday will be in full swing Sunday, with strong, damaging winds and intense snowfall making for a travel nightmare for much of the day. Gusts past 90 km/h and total snowfall amounts in the 30-50 cm range will be in play, only really winding down region-wide by Monday morning, while Manitoba and parts of eastern Saskatchewan will grapple with periods of freezing rain. A deeper look at timing and impact, below.

WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS:

  • 30-50 cm of snow possible in hardest-hit areas through Monday morning

  • Blizzard conditions likely Sunday with winds gusting to 80-90+ km/h at times

  • Periods of freezing rain Sunday for parts of Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan

INTO SUNDAY: DANGEROUS BLIZZARD-LIKE CONDITIONS WITH HAZARDOUS TRAVEL

The snow that began in the western Prairies Saturday will intensify into Sunday. Aside from the very heavy snowfall, conditions will be worsened by strong, sustained winds.

The strongest winds will occur throughout southern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta, with sustained winds of 40+ km/h and gusts of 60-90+ km/h, making for prolonged blizzard conditions for large parts of the day.

To the east, in Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, periods of freezing rain and ice pellets will be likely bringing their own hassles for travellers.

PR storm Sat Afternoon
PR storm Sat Afternoon

Those blizzard conditions look to continue through the evening before gradually tapering off into Monday morning, while in Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan, that band of freezing rain will migrate northwards.

In all areas where freezing rain is possible may pick up as much as 10 mm of ice accretion by Monday morning.

Prairie snow Saturday evening
Prairie snow Saturday evening

"Avoid travel if possible. Rapidly accumulating snow could make travel difficult over some locations," warns Environment Canada in a winter storm watch issued for the region. "Travel is expected to be hazardous due to reduced visibility in some locations."

PRBlizzard
PRBlizzard

In all, parts of the region are set to pick up 30-50 cm by Monday morning, heaviest in much of Saskatchewan and a slice of southern and eastern Saskatchewan. In Alberta, Edmonton and Calgary look to be in the 5-15 cm range, while in Manitoba, much of the south will see negligible amounts.

PR snow
PR snow

Blowing and drifting snow will still be a problem once the storm eases, with even moderate winds likely to keep travel difficult for some time after.

The snow from this weekend event puts several communities in line for their largest daily snowfall on record for the entire month of November, and certainly well above, the average for the month.

PR Record snow 2
PR Record snow 2

Some of those records include 78.7 cm in Pincher Creek, Alberta, set in 1905, 35.6 cm in Calgary, Alberta, set in 1914, 35.6 cm in Estevan, Saskatchewan, set in 1906, and 32.2 cm in Medicine Hat, Alberta, set in 1990.

November snow
November snow

Depending on how the storm shakes out, there's also a non-zero chance that many of those communities may even see their single largest daily snowfall total since records began.

PR Record Snow
PR Record Snow

Adding to the ordeal, the wind chill will dip into the -20s during and after the storm, as Arctic air plunges into the region, except for southeastern Manitoba will be windy and very warm. Temperatures will be in the mid- to upper-teens Sunday while the blizzard impacts regions further west.

BEYOND THE STORM: LINGERING EFFECTS, BITTER WIND CHILLS

The system moves out late Sunday night into the pre-dawn hours Monday morning. However, strong winds will continue in the wake of the system, allowing for reduced visibilities and blowing or drifting snow to persist into early next week.

Colder weather will finally spread into the eastern Prairies as the storm departs, as well, and Arctic air will dominate across the Prairies early and mid-next week. During and after the storm, the wind chill will plunge into the minus teens and minus 20s.

Temperatures will recover to near or above seasonal by late-week and through next weekend, but there is the potential for another cold shot during the weekend or into the following week.

Be sure to check back with The Weather Network as we provide updates on the forthcoming blizzard and hazardous conditions.