Slushy streets in Whitehorse, as warm spell hits the region

There were plenty of slushy puddles in downtown Whitehorse on Wednesday. A spell of unseasonably warm weather has hit southern Yukon, and parts of N.W.T., Alaska and northern B.C. — but it won't last. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)
There were plenty of slushy puddles in downtown Whitehorse on Wednesday. A spell of unseasonably warm weather has hit southern Yukon, and parts of N.W.T., Alaska and northern B.C. — but it won't last. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)

Never mind the insulated winter boots — it was rubber-boot weather in Whitehorse on Wednesday, with an unusual January warm spell bringing dirty puddles and fields of slush to downtown streets.

Southern Yukon is basking in some mild weather this week, with temperatures climbing well above the freezing point on Wednesday and expected to stay that way into Thursday.

Whitehorse hit 4 C on early Wednesday afternoon, and Environment Canada's forecast was calling for the temperature to reach as high as 6 C later in the day. Thursday was expected to be nearly as mild.

In Watson Lake, Yukon, there's even a chance of rain on Thursday.

Terri Lang, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, says the warm spell is "pretty widespread," hitting parts of Alaska, southern Yukon and northern B.C. In southwestern N.W.T., the temperature in Fort Liard was expected to climb to 5 C on Wednesday, from –14 C the day before.

"You can blame an atmospheric river ... what, you know, we used to call sort of the 'Pineapple Express,'" said Lang.

"So it's, you know, full of moisture and warmth and it hits the mountains, kind of squeezes out all its moisture and then comes down and dries as it comes. So it warms even more."

Paul Tukker/CBC
Paul Tukker/CBC

The conditions are unusual for Yukon in mid-winter, but not unheard of. A record-breaking warm spell in 1977 saw Whitehorse hit 6 C on Jan. 25 and 9 C on Jan. 26.

And it's a far cry from what Yukoners were experiencing just weeks ago, when the mercury was hovering around –40 C for several days before Christmas.

Still, Lang says the territory hasn't broken any weather records yet this week.

And she warns Yukoners not to pack away the parka just yet — the Pineapple Express will soon be overtaken by the "Siberian Express," bringing much colder air to the region.

Temperatures are expected to drop by Friday, though not dramatically. Whitehorse is expecting daytime highs of about –10 C or –11 C on the weekend, which is closer to the average for late-January.

"But it's gonna feel a bit of a shocker after the very mild temperatures," Lang said.

She also reminds Yukoners that mild temperatures and longer days can sometimes fool people into thinking that spring is just around the corner.

"We've got lots of winter to go," she said. "February is often a very cold month and I think people forget that."