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Storm catches Penticton by surprise
Pentictonites woke to a white winter wonderland Wednesday and a slippery commute to work, with city crews not providing their usual early response to the snowfall.
A combination of factors slowed the city road crew’s response to the snowfall, according to Simone Blais, the city’s communications officer.
The series of events started with the snow check, which is done around 3 a.m. But at that time there wasn’t a significant amount of snow — it wasn’t until the on-call staff went back to bed that the snow began to come down.
“Shortly after that time it began snowing. Very thick, wet heavy stuff that collected right away,” said Blais.
“Once the crews came in for the day, we also had some challenges with the equipment and we weren’t able to get that next vehicle out on the road. We also had a few other tweaks that needed to be done.
“I don’t want to say it was a perfect storm, but it was snowy and there were a few hiccups.”
Penticton has three levels of road clearing priority. Main routes, steep grades and emergency routes are the highest priority, and are to be clear within 12 hours of a storm.
By the 24-hour mark, secondary roads, industrial routes, and school zones should be clear.
“And the priority three is the residential roads, lanes and walkways and we shoot to have those open within 48 hours of the storm ending,” said Blais.
“Those are our targets. Then things happen. You get a big wintery blast like this shortly after your snow check in the morning and it just creates a bunch of challenges.”
While the snow made for a slippery drive to work or school for some, others, like James Shalman, general manager of Apex Mountain Resort, were happy to see it.
“We have 17 centimetres so far and counting,” said Shalman on Wednesday.
“We’ve had an amazing amount of snowfall. It’s nice to see the powder again.”
By Thursday morning, Apex was reporting 25 cm on the runs.
And with the sunshine at the top of the mountain, Shalman said conditions are more like spring skiing.
Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist said the snow was expected to stop by today, with an arctic front moving in overnight, bringing dryer air and daily highs in the -1 to -3 C range.
“Once we get rid of the few flurries that are around (Thursday), we are not expecting much in the way of precipitation from Friday through until next Wednesday,” said Lundquist.
What ended up as a 10 cm accumulation on the ground in Penticton is also good news for the snowpack, which helps refill the region’s water reservoirs in the spring.
On Jan. 1, the Okanagan snow pack was measured at 115 per cent of normal levels and 80 per cent for the Similkameen.
“If we got this much down here, there is usually that much or double at high terrain, sometimes more. Especially when it is heavy and wet like it was Wednesday,” said Lundquist.
The snowfall also triggered the City of Penticton to extend the deadline on the snow and ice survey it is conducting in order to get more input.
“The deadline to complete the survey is Jan. 31, but given we had this late winter weather blast, we have decided to extend the survey to at least Feb. 7,” said Blais.
“I know that people have their thoughts about what their expectations are relative to snow and ice removal.
“It is one of those services that in the Citizen Survey we found people have higher expectations and there was room for improvement in the service.”
The survey can be filled out at www.penticton.ca/Snow.
Blais said they have some hard copies at City Hall for those who don’t want submit their opinion online.