Approximately 100 tractor-trailer units were parked along the Trans-Canada Highway and at the Husky Travel Centre late Wednesday morning as avalanche control was continued along the highway between Craigellachie and Revelstoke. Many of the drivers were forced to stay overnight as a result of the highway closure.

Approximately 100 tractor-trailer units were parked along the Trans-Canada Highway and at the Husky Travel Centre late Wednesday morning as avalanche control was continued along the highway between Craigellachie and Revelstoke. Many of the drivers were forced to stay overnight as a result of the highway closure.

Snowfall smothers the Shuswap

Storm: Region struggles with power outages, closed highways and schools.

The huge low-pressure system has gone but the memory lingers on.

Salmon Arm didn’t score a record with the 46 centimetres of snow measured at the Salmon Arm Airport, but was the “winner” in the amount of snow dumped in the Thompson-Okanagan region during the two-day storm.

For recording purposes, Environment Canada uses daily measurements taken between 12 a.m. and midnight of any given day.

The record for a one-day snowfall in that time frame was 33 centimetres on Dec. 27, 1998.

“If you’re going to be extremely technical, it’s not a record,” Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells said, noting Salmon Arm’s extreme snow depth, a record for accumulated snow, was 87 cm measured on Jan. 24, 1993.

In terms of a two-day record, this one will go down in history as Salmon Arm’s fourth heaviest snowfall.

Environment Canada files indicate 51 cm fell in a two-day period in 1918, 49 cm on Jan. 8 and 9, 1969, with the all-time two-day record of 53 cm set in 1943.

Kamloops saw an unusual 39 cm, but did not get anywhere near the two-day record of  53 cm set in 1885.

You can blame winter’s onslaught on the “Pineapple Express.”

A surge of cold Arctic air from the Yukon that settled into the valleys was covered by a large warm air mass originating in Hawaii.

“The two (air masses) are battling it out,” said Coldwells Monday. “And there has been a continuous flow; that’s one of the keys for making it snow for what seems forever.”

That forever snow caused havoc in the Shuswap, closing schools and challenging travellers, city road crews and businesses.

The storm caused a variety of power outages in the Shuswap.

Classes were cancelled at Okanagan College and across School District #83 for two days, giving some parents the headache of finding daycare.

BC Transit was forced to suspend operations in the Shuswap on Monday while  city crews and contractors were working around the clock to deal with the heavy snowfall.

An emergency radio scanner reported an ambulance stuck in snow at Balmoral and a “critical shortage” of ambulances in the Shuswap around 8 p.m. Jan. 4, but Market News calls to the BC Ambulance Service remained unanswered at press time.

But there were moments of gold on the highway too.

Trucker Marie Munro was one of hundreds of truckers stuck in a long line that stretched from Sicamous to the Skyline Truck Stop in Malakwa.

Considering herself lucky to be stuck in Sicamous, the 48-year-old trucker, with 20 years of experience, said she was amazed when a knock came on her truck door Tuesday evening.

“I rolled down the window and a woman said ‘care package,’ and handed me two foil-wrapped packages,” said Munro, noting she spied a couple with a white pickup working their way along the line, but it was too dark and happened so quickly she had no further details. “I said what’s this? She said ‘steak dinner.’ It was barbecued steak, potatoes and veggies and it was really tasty. I scarfed it down right away.”

Munro, who had been stopped with her feline travelling companion, Turtle, since 1 p.m. Tuesday, was very touched by the thoughtfulness of the couple who, she noted, would have been without power themselves.

She said several other truckers were also surprised and pleased by the couple’s generosity and by the operators of the local Husky, who were handing out free sandwiches and beverages.

While she has been stuck along the Trans-Canada more than once, and received special food baskets from local church groups when parked at truck stops over Christmas, she has never experienced this kind of community generosity.

“It’s really nice to see people are still caring about people,” she said. “I want to say a huge thank you to Sicamous, especially considering they were without power.”

Back in Salmon Arm, Rob Niewenhuizen, director of public works, said all available resources had attempted to clear priority roads that include arterial and collector streets first – many of which required clearing multiple times.

“It has been challenging,” he said Wednesday morning as crews were trying to get to remaining roads by end of day.

While there had been some complaints from people wanting the clearing done faster, Niewenhuizen, said others have been stopping staff to thank them for their work.

“I don’t think people sometimes understood the magnitude of the storm, nor do they understand it (snow-clearing) goes out to Salmon Valley, Gleneden, Lyman Hill,” he said. “We say we have 250 kilometres, but that’s two ways, so really, we’re doubling that up and suddenly it’s 500 kilometres.”

Sidewalk plowing was also started in limited areas Monday, but was being hampered because of the depth of snow and the fact that plowing had pushed snow onto the sidewalks.

Residents are asked to keep children out of roadside snowbanks where they might not be visible to cleanup crews.

Even working flat out with the full contingent of 12 staff members and 12 pieces of equipment of varying sizes, Niewenhuizen said snow dumps, where downtown snow is taken, were getting so big, they had to be sorted out before more snow could be added.

“Now we will go back to all the areas where we’ve pushed snow into boulevards and front yards and then we have sidewalks that we have to go back in and clear,” he says. “It’s continual – we clean it, push it and start again when we get another snowfall.”

Back on the weather front, Coldwells said the area would soon be experiencing the Shuswap’s normal dull, grey winter weather, with the mercury hovering around zero and with very little temperature change.

And a forecast of “a bit more snow,” for Friday should not cause undue fear as it will be nothing like the area experienced earlier in the week.

 

 

Salmon Arm Observer