Facebook is abuzz with optimistic Calgarians chirping about the signs of spring; one of my friends even removed his winter tires, reinstalling the all-seasons; and I’ve seen a few sets of pasty white legs strolling along Calgary’s streets.
As a native Calgarian, I’d like to remind you all — keep the shovels out, the winter tires on and your boots at the front door — our streets and sidewalks will be covered in white stuff before long.
It’s a perennial Calgary condition — the first stretch of warmth launches a chorus of declarations that winter is over — as if we’re suffering collective amnesia or we’ve drifted into a state of group denial. It’s almost understandable this year since winter 2009-10 has been the warmest and driest on Canadian record.
David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada said last week, “it’s beyond shocking.” He says he hasn’t seen anything like this in his 40 years of weather watching.
This season has been the warmest, at 4 C above normal, since nationwide records were first kept in 1948. We’ve also seen 22 per cent less precipitation than normal, nationally. In the 63 years that precipitation has been recorded Canada-wide, this is the driest. In parts of our province, precipitation is down 60 per cent. But, this is Calgary — one of the most unpredictable cities in Canada, weather-wise — and we’ve managed to buck some of those trends despite the recent warm, dry temperatures.
We’ve actually not done too badly for snow this season. Since December, 72 centimetres has fallen, more than our city’s average of 58.9 cm for the period. And if history tells us anything, we should expect more snow and soon.
March is historically our city’s snowiest month with an average of 22 cm throughout the month. It was March 17, 1998, that we got our worst snowstorm in 113 years with 32 cm coming down in one day. Some parts of the city endured 40 to 45 cm.
The city knows this and it is prepared. The transportation department keeps the full snow fleet on call until mid-April. And after council beefed up the snow removal budget by $10 million in February, the city should be well prepared for the next blast.
The rest of us should remain prepared, too, no matter how sad it might be to stay attached to the winter tires, snow shovels and boots for the next couple of months.
– Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.