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More rain may be heading towards Manitoba

Farmers are hoping a developing Colorado Low will skirt south next week, as they continue to grapple with the aftermath of a historic snow storm

[UPDATE: Oct. 16, 2019] Manitoba is bracing for its next hit, even after it digs out from a historic snowstorm.

The weather event, which hit on the eve of the Thanksgiving weekend, closed highways, caused unprecedented power outages and left unharvested crops under half a metre of snow or more.

Eric Dykes, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, says they are watching another developing Colorado Low that might set back any hopes of getting back on the fields. The storm is set to track over the Central Plains early next week and may bring rain to Manitoba Oct. 21.

There is “wide disagreement” between models tracking that storm, Dykes said. American models suggest the storm will pass south of Manitoba entirely, while the Canadian model suggests the storm may clip the province.

“All we can say at the present time period is hopefully the American models are correct and that system that’s going to affect us on Monday will skirt us to the south and have no bearing on any of the weather for southern Manitoba early next week,” he said.

Farmers can expect some reprieve in the next few days, he added, pointing to expected temperatures in the double digits later this week.

“We’ve had a lot of precipitation, of course, through the month of September here in southern Manitoba and this latest snow storm did not help farmers in helping with the harvest, of course. That being said, southern Manitoba is going to slowly warm up through this week,” he said.

Taking stock

Snow began to fall in the northwest already Oct. 9, the frontrunner to a three-day Colorado Low that swept into southern Manitoba Oct. 10-12 and stalled over the province after hitting a ridge of high pressure out of Ontario.

Eric Dykes, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, says areas between Winnipeg and Brandon and south through the Red River Valley saw the brunt of the storm. Carberry was buried by 74 centimetres of snow, while Morden reported 64 centimetres of snow and Strathclair saw 60 centimetres. Communities such as Treherne and Miami also topped off at 50 centimetres of snow or more.

Snow tapered off slightly to the north, east and west, although the Dauphin region still reported about 30 centimetres of snow. Winnipeg served as a dividing line, with the western part of the city receiving 35 centimetres to the eastern side’s 15 centimetres.

Most models had the rain-snow line, the point where precipitation changes from snow to rain, directly over Winnipeg prior to the start of the storm, Dykes said.

“There was always sort of a bulls eye, an axis of heavier snow that was looking to always fall just south and west of Winnipeg,” he said. “Winnipeg itself received a bit more snow (than expected) due to the fact that the track of the Low deviated just ever so slightly to allow for that rain-snow line to push a little bit further eastward than model runs in the days prior were indicating.”

The Red River Valley saw more snow than expected due to that shift, he said.

Social media was inundated with images of downed trees, snow-clogged highways, near-zero visibility and electric transmission towers cracked in half as the storm dragged into the Thanksgiving weekend.

About 100,000 customers were without power Oct. 11, Manitoba Hydro said, with the region around Portage la Prairie particularly hard hit.

“The snow itself was rather heavy, and because it was rather heavy and it was falling onto surfaces where there was a lot of foliage still with trees and so forth, the leaves on those trees were able to hold the wet snow and bring down the branches and the weight of that wet snow on the branches onto the hydro lines was what caused a lot of the issues,” Dykes said.

By Saturday, Manitoba Hydro requested that the province announce a state of emergency, allowing them to invoke mutual aid agreements with neighbouring regions. Premier Brian Pallister honoured that request Oct. 13.

“It is clear the tremendous effort to restore power and other activities will be ongoing for some time,” he said. “The state of emergency will help with that effort.”

Crews from Saskatchewan, Minnesota and Ontario were inbound to help Manitoba deal with the aftermath of the storm, it was announced by the end of the weekend.

Manitoba Hydro reached out to Hydro One in Ontario, Sask Power and Minnesota Power to help replace the many downed transmission towers and hydro poles claimed by the storm.

Over 13,000 customers were still without power as of noon Oct. 15, according to Manitoba Hydro. The utility company estimates it may be over a week until power is restored to all customers.

A press release Oct. 14 said that 1,000 hydro poles had to be replaced in both the Interlake and Portage la Prairie areas.

“This is damage on a scale never before seen in Manitoba and it doesn’t account for the additional damage we are likely to find once repairs begin,” Manitoba Hydro president and CEO Jay Grewal said. “Our construction staff estimate that we may find almost another 1,000 poles that are damaged and need replacement.”

Update: The headline previously indicated that a snow event was predicted in the forecast.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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