Environment Canada says a major spring blizzard “about to hit” southern Manitoba for three days this week could be the worst in decades.
In an updated storm watch advisory on Monday, the weather agency said widespread snowfall of 30 to 50 centimeters is expected, along with northerly winds blowing at 70 to 90 km/h, sometimes giving a zero visibility.
Stock up on needed supplies and medications now and don’t plan to travel, says Environment Canada’s weather alert.
“This storm has the potential to be the worst snowstorm in decades.”
CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder says Winnipeg could be lucky and see slightly lower amounts, around 24 to 45 cm.
To put that into context, however, Winnipeg averages 50 inches of snow in a winter, so 18 inches would be almost a third of an entire season’s snowfall.
The biggest snowstorm this winter was 20 cm on December 27.
“This one will rival the storm of 1997, when Winnipeg picked up 48cm of snow,” Sauder said. “Sometimes I use the term ‘crippling city storm’ and I think it has the potential to be that.
“So yeah, this could be one of those storms where we see the city shut down and the stores close. Traveling on the highway? Absolutely forget about it.”
Forecast of the position of the storm as of 7 a.m. on Wednesday April 13 via the Canadian RDPS model. Strong low moving through central Minnesota with snow spreading into srn MB from the south. Snow is expected to start in Winnipeg Wednesday morning. The storm is expected to move slowly over nrn MN through Thursday before heading east pic.twitter.com/8SCNjBeEW8
Much higher amounts, possibly near 80cm, could be seen over higher terrain in western Manitoba and west of the Red River Valley, Environment’s storm watch said. Canada.
Although things should calm down until Good Friday, the temperatures won’t be warm enough to start melting the pile of snow. A maximum of -5 C is forecast for Friday and -1 for Saturday. The normal daytime high for this time of year is 9°C.
“But at that point, I think things will start to open up, as far as plowing operations are concerned,” Sauder said. “It will take a few days, but maybe by Sunday we will resume our travels.”
If it’s any consolation, having a storm this time of year isn’t unusual. Last year, on April 12 and 13, Winnipeg was hit with 23 cm of snow, Sauder said.
“We did well. That one didn’t come with a lot of wind, but still.”
The system, a Colorado low, is set to hit the province from Tuesday evening through Friday before heading into northwestern Ontario.
It will begin near the US border on Tuesday evening as the system moves towards Minnesota and continues to push north.
Environment Canada forecasts that by Wednesday morning, heavy snowfall will fall from southeast Saskatchewan to most of southern Manitoba.
“Travel will become increasingly difficult as the day progresses on Wednesday, with widespread highway closures a near certainty,” Environment Canada’s weather alert said.
“By Wednesday evening, even movement within communities could become impossible as heavy snow and high winds continue. And the same is expected on Thursday.”
As of April 10, Winnipeg had received 174 cm of snow so far this winter. with the next #MBstorm this week, our seasonal snowfall could reach the 200cm mark for only the 8th time in 150 years of records pic.twitter.com/1eq3VA8HRn
Power outages are likely and rural areas in particular should be prepared for prolonged outages.
Conditions are expected to start improving on Friday as winds ease and the heaviest snow moves east, “although the cleanup after this storm will likely last into next week,” Environment Canada said. .
What this means for potential flooding has yet to be addressed.
In 1997, the Red River Valley was saturated – due to heavy rains in the fall of 1996 and a long, cold winter that brought four blizzards – and could not absorb the melt.
This winter was just as long and cold and marked by multiple blizzard warnings, but this time the fall was extremely dry after a summer of drought.
Either way, melt from the upcoming storm will add to flooding potential, Sauder said.
North Dakota is also expected to experience heavy snowfall.
“And all of that will feed into the Red River and flow in that direction,” Sauder said. “So I think after this nice slow melt that we are enjoying, it will make a difference.”