Ranchers, residents brace for second spring storm in southeast Saskatchewan

·4 min read
A Moosomin resident clears snow from his driveway on April 14, 2022, after a Colorado low brought a blizzard through southeast Saskatchewan.  (Daniella Ponticelli/CBC - image credit)
A Moosomin resident clears snow from his driveway on April 14, 2022, after a Colorado low brought a blizzard through southeast Saskatchewan. (Daniella Ponticelli/CBC - image credit)

Winter storms are bookending spring break for people in southeast Saskatchewan.

On Friday, Environment and Climate Change Canada expanded storm warnings for several communities in the region including Weyburn, Moosomin, Grenfell, Oxbow and Estevan.

Warning preparedness meteorologist Natalie Hasell said the coming Colorado low — the second in the area in just over a week — will bring rain, freezing rain and heavy snow to the region starting Friday.

"Colorado lows are perfectly normal this time of year. But to have two of them in 10 days, that are this intense, I don't think we see that," she said.

The wind will also be a problem. Gusts of 70 to 90 km/h are expected Saturday into Sunday, leading to very poor visibility in the blowing snow.

Power outages and road closures are possible through the weekend, and people are being asked to avoid non-essential travel.

Hasell said emergency kits with drinking water, food and medicine, are crucial to have close by.

"Pay very close attention to the weather. Pay very close attention to road conditions," she said.

"Pay attention to how other people are driving, and those ahead of you, because they might see something that you can't yet see. Slow down."

Last week, a blizzard swept through the southeast, starting the evening of April 19 in some areas and lasting for several days.

Daniella Ponticelli/CBC
Daniella Ponticelli/CBC

James Jones lives in Estevan, where between 30 and 40 centimetres of snow fell during that storm.

"I had drifts alongside in my house that were probably eight to 10 feet tall in places. In the back, toward my shed, was almost up to the roof line," Jones said.

He said his kids are making the most of their snowy spring break, building forts and playing outside. But Jones and others in the community are also aware of the fallout from this sudden dumping of spring snow.

"It's so important to check around the foundation of your house and clear [around it], like I spent a lot of time doing that, just making sure the snow was away from the house," he said.

"A lot of people and businesses are also trying to do that as well, just to make sure that you can prevent flooding from happening if it does melt quickly."

This weekend's system is expected to bring between 25 to 50 centimetres of snow to the area.

Hassell said that while the storm should begin clearing Sunday, there could be potential for record low temperatures.

The weather office is predicting a low of –14 C overnight into Monday, along with another system bringing rain into the southeast corner by Wednesday.

Ranchers prep for round 2

Livestock producer Chad Ross spoke with CBC News Friday morning while preparing his 1,600 cattle for another storm. His farm is located around 15 kilometres south of Estevan, just north of the U.S. border.

"We're putting enough feed out for the whole weekend," Ross said. "We are also giving them some extra bails of hay, some extra bails of straw right in the pen."

The 50-year-old rancher said that during these storms, the heavy winds blow snow into the alleyways where they feed cattle and covers the feed bunks.

Having two storms back-to-back is tough. It's tough on the cattle. It's tough on the ranchers and the employees that have to look after those cattle." - Chad Ross, livestock producer south of Estevan

The heavy snow also poses a problem for ranchers just getting to their cattle, especially if they need help.

Ross said that during last weekend's storm, he had to dig a path for a few that got trapped between the snow fence and a snow bank.

"Having two storms back-to-back is tough. It's tough on the cattle. It's tough on the ranchers and the employees that have to look after those cattle," he said.

"I really feel for the ranchers that are calving right now."

Ross is about a week away from starting calving season himself.

He said the added moisture from the storms is the only silver lining, as he had to downsize his operation due to droughts and limited feed over the last three years.

"Getting more snow is a blessing. We need the moisture. We absolutely do," he said. "It would be nice to get this rain without the wind. But that's one thing that we are appreciating about it."

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