Mike Klitch has been in the snow tire business for 40 years and he's never seen such a rush for rubber in October.
The snow started falling on Saturday and by the time it stopped early Tuesday morning the city was covered in a slippery white blanket 26 centimetres deep. That's 10 1/2 inches for those who not metrically-inclined.
For Klitch, owner of Nechako Wheel and Brake, it was a business bonanza Monday and Tuesday as unprepared motorists flocked to his downtown store to get their winter treads put on. While that put cash in his till, the downside of that was Klitch's five mechanics and his front-office staff were run off their feet trying to meet the demand.
"It was extremely busy, those guys had 80 tires changed by lunchtime (Monday) and it was the same today," Klitch. "They gave their all and I'm really impressed with their work. They were here until 7:30 Monday night. It was insane. They were actually having fun with it, seeing how many they could do."
Tire shops all over the city were dealing with a crush of customers and there were long waits at most of them to get their vehicles into the garage. Lineups at Costco started at 5:30 a.m. with most appointments for the day being booked shortly after the 8 a.m. opening. Some stores were running out of their supply for certain sizes.
"It caught everybody off-guard," said Klitch. "We started changing tires two or three weeks ago but with the big snowfall coming in, everybody got caught. A lot of people wait until the last minute but this was really bad. Even people who are generally prepared got caught. I can't remember ever having this much snow that stayed in October."
An unseasonable arctic front slumped to the south and combined with a moist air flow to create havoc the past few days for motorists, pedestrians and city road crews.
"It's unusual to have that much snow in October but it's not unheard of," said Greg Pearce, a forecast technologist for Environment Canada.
About 8 cm came down Saturday night and early Sunday, followed by another dump Sunday that brought 15 cm to the airport and 9 cm downtown by the Monday morning rush hour. Snow continued Monday evening until about midnight, bringing 9 cm to the airport and 11 cm downtown. The total accumulation of 26 cm was well above the normal snowfall of 8.4 cm for the entire month. The record for one day was set Oct. 25, 1971, when 22 cm fell on the city.
It was also quite chilly Tuesday morning. The airport thermometer dipped to -21 C and it got as cold as -19 in the city. The coldest October day ever recorded in Prince George was -26.5 on Oct. 31, 1984. Normal temperatures for this time of year are highs of 4.6 C and lows of -0.4.
The good news is there is a warming trend on the way this weekend. Highs of 7 C are predicted for Saturday and Sunday. While it won't arrive in time to help trick or treaters doing their Halloween rounds tonight, it should help city road crews get on top of their task at hand. The high today will only reach -3 C, after an overnight low of -16 early this morning.
Pearce suggests kids dress warmly tonight with evening temperatures around -7 C and 2 cm of new snow predicted.
"You will probably get a little but of snow in the afternoon Wednesday as the arctic front moves back up but nothing outrageous," said Steele. "The cloud will roll in and that will keep things warm (tonight). It will be cool with some flurries in the middle of the week and then it all start melting on the weekend."
City transportation manager Al Clark is hoping this early snow is a freak of nature and the snow won't be excessive the next two months. The city has budgeted $800,000 for snow removal until Dec. 31 and the last two days have put that budget under strain.
"We're using our trucks and graders and limited rental [equipment] and working on the [main arteries] and downtown and we'll eventually get to the residential streets," said Clark. "We're using plow trucks a bit more in areas we would use graders, because the weather is supposed to warm up.
"We've had a lot of snow in a short period of time. We're trying to make the streets safe and passable and we've been watching the temperature. In the evenings we'll get cooler temperatures and we'll be using salt and sand and sand with [rock] fracture. The fracture has jagged edges which provides better grip on the ice and it tends to stick where we put it down, rather than roll off to the side of the road."
The early snow is good news for snowmobile owners and local ski resorts hoping to get an early start to their seasons.
While there's plenty of snow for cross-country skiing, the trails at Otway Nordic Centre remain closed due to chip-hauling operations. The Otway parking lots are being used for wood chipping and hauling leftover logging debris from new trail construction and those lots are not available to the public. Check the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club's website, caledonianordic.com for updates on trail conditions.