There are winter storms that have been dubbed Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon or even snOMG. But Calgarians facing a wicked September, with snapped tree limbs strewn across roads, are getting what city officials have described as "a snowfall event."
And what an event it has been. Over the last three days, Calgary has been battered by foul and unexpected weather conditions, and that's saying something given the city's reputation for rapid change.
The temperature here Wednesday dropped to an unimpressive 1 degrees from Sunday's high of 25.8. A wet, heavy snow – 5 to 15 centimetres per day for the past two days – has taken down trees and branches all over the city.
In turn, those trees and branches have taken out power lines. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 30,000 people were still without electricity, which meant no heat, no WiFi and slow commutes via the LRT trains. Traffic lights were out, turning major intersections into four-way stops. Some businesses didn't open. Schools were open but poorly attended. Organizers at the Spruce Meadows equestrian centre cancelled the first day of the Masters competition.
David Spence, the Calgary-based CTV meteorologist, was asked whether this September-to-remember snowfall was a first for the foothills city. He explained the records to determine that are incomplete.
"We generally get snow in the first couple of weeks in October – it was Oct, 27 last year and two years ago it was Oct. 20th," said Mr. Spence, who pointed to an Arctic ridge of high pressure coming down through British Columbia as part of the problem. The other part was that the storm front headed east over the mountains, picking up cool air and moisture then dumping it on southern Alberta.
In response, the city of Calgary announced it was opening its emergency operations centre to co-ordinate the cleanup . This is the first time the operations centre has been open since the great flooding of 2013.
Ken Uzeloc, director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, explained this snowfall was unusual because it arrived at least six weeks earlier than expected. That, he said, produced more than 1,300 calls to the city's 311 information line.
Mr. Uzeloc insisted the top priority is to clear roads blocked by fallen trees. Members of Canada Task Force 2, a disaster response team, are doing chainsaw duty to clear roads and sidewalks. Contractors have been hired by the city.
"The overall cleanup may take a few days," Mr. Uzeloc said, "because what crews are doing is chopping up any trees that are impacting things and then moving them off to the side."
Enmax spokesperson Doris Kaufmann said the power company has brought in additional crews to get the electricity back on. "This is actually in pretty much all quadrants of the city with the exception of the northeast," she said, adding that Enmax couldn't put a timeline on when power would be running in every neighbourhood.
What should help is another shift in the weather, this one in a positive way, with no snow Thursday combining with more sun and higher temperatures. By Saturday, it is expected to be 11 degrees.
"I can tell you this," Mr. Spence said. "It snowed here on Aug. 22 in 1992. I remember it very well. It was my wedding day."
One year ago to the day, Calgary had a warm event with the temperature reaching 24 degrees.