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Major snow sweeps southern Alberta


Can you spot the rabbit covered in snow on this Calgary deck? Click on the image to see recent Prairie snow photos.
Can you spot the rabbit covered in snow on this Calgary deck? Click on the image to see recent Prairie snow photos.

Jill Colton, staff writer

January 30, 2011 — A serious bout of snow has engulfed most of southern Alberta, leaving places like Calgary with 20 cm of snow.

This is how much snow fell in southern Alberta over the weekend
This is how much snow fell in southern Alberta over the weekend

People across southern Alberta are digging out of the snow.

With warnings in effect throughout the region, Calgary saw its most significant snowfall in years on Saturday. The city saw 14.5 cm blanket the ground, but it didn't stop there. By Sunday, about 20 cm had piled up.

Banff has also seen substantial totals, which was great news for ski and snowboarders. Douglas Kerr, with the highway service in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, estimates that around 7,000 people were headed to Lake Louise.

So what is generating all the snow? “It's all due to the upsloping. This essentially means that wind goes up the mountains, then the air cools and condenses, forming clouds (snow),” explains Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist here at The Weather Network.

A big change in temperatures
A big change in temperatures

Although it looked like a winter wonderland, the snowstorm created havoc on the roads. Between 9 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Saturday, Calgary police had responded to eight injury accidents and an additional 27 non-injury mishaps. According to the Alberta Motor Association's website, roads throughout Calgary were in rough condition on Saturday. Travel on Highway 1 east of Calgary reported very icy road conditions and the RCMP was advising people to take caution.

In addition to the mounds of snow, temperatures have plummeted. The region rapidly went from record-setting warmth to begrudging cold. On Thursday, the mercury sky-rocketed to 13°C in Calgary and by mid-morning Sunday, the temperature was a biting -21°C. This change in temperature is dramatic, but it's not unusual, says Brian Owsiak, another meteorologist at The Weather Network.

“Chinooks happen in southern Alberta fairly frequently, which results in above-seasonal temperatures. And then, quickly in behind such warm westerly winds, we can have Arcitic air masses that move in,” he says. The result: A quick plunge in temperatures. “Bundle up. It looks like winter is back in southern Alberta,” says Owsiak.

The snow is expected to taper off by the end of the weekend for places like Medicine Hat, but temperatures will remain cold for Monday.

With files from Lisa Varano and The Vancouver Sun.

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