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Weekend snowfall buries city

Milder temperatures, drier air predicted in five-day forecast for city
Mike Lee snowblowing
Mike Lee and his snowblower have become good buddies lately getting their workouts together keeping his driveway on McKinley Crescent clear of snow this season.

Forced to dig themselves out of the big dump of snow that blanketed the city under about 20 centimetres of fresh flakes Saturday, Prince George residents were no doubt uttering a few curse words as they grabbed their shovels and fired up the snowblowers.

It was no big deal for Mike Lee. He’s lived in Prince George all of his 42 years and winter just comes with the territory. On the wretched scale, this winter is not as bad as it could be, according to Lee.

“It’s maybe a seven, I think we’ve seen worse, it’s not so bad for the cold but we’ve seen lots of snow,” said Lee. “The cold wasn’t too bad, at least it was only a few days of -40.”

After a record-setting low of -41 C on Dec. 26, it plunged to -39 C on Dec. 27 and reached -37 C on Dec. 29. We had one more day colder than -30 when it dropped to -31 C on Wednesday, but that’s it.

“Anything over (minus) 25 is a little cold, but anything under that is, we’re used to it, we’re strong,” said Lee. “You’ve got to be, living up here with all this snow. The kids love it, they’ve all disappeared into the snowbanks. It’s good, I don’t mind. If I didn’t love it this much I  would have moved down south.”

City crews worked through the night to plow the major arteries and their yeoman efforts made driving possible for those who had to venture out in their own vehicles or wait for taxis to pick them up Sunday morning.

Sunday was the first day in more than two weeks when it actually didn’t feel that cold. In fact, it rose above zero for the first time since Dec. 2. Christmas was the start of a two-week stretch of cold weather and from Dec. 24-Jan. 6 there were only two days (Jan. 2 and 3) in which the mercury rose above -20 C.

December brought an average high of -9.7 C and an average low of -19.8 C with 24.5 centimetres of snow for the month. Through the first eight days of January the average high/low was -17 C and -24 C, with 8.5 cm of snow, not including what fell on Saturday.

The five-day forecast calls for a mild trend with little or no precipitation. After an overnight low of -3 C, Monday’s high is forecast to hit 1C, with a low of zero. Tuesday’s temperature will hover around 1C all day. The predicted highs Wednesday to Friday will be 4 C, -2 C and -5 C, with lows of -4 C, -11 C and -7 C. A few flurries could fall on Monday and periods of rain or snow are expected Tuesday, but no significant accumulations are expected.

But we’re certainly not out the woods, not with more than two months of winter still ahead of us.

“There’s a lot of variability from one winter to the next, as anybody who lives here would know,” said Peter Jackson, a mesoscale meteorologist at UNBC.

“We get heavy-snow years and light-snow years and this year is a bit of La Nina year, which ends to be wetter than normal, n other words, snowier than normal. I remember when I moved herein the mid’90s we had lots of periods of real cold Arctic air and deep snow, much more so than in recent years, I would say.”

January and February traditionally are the heaviest snow months in Prince George, so you better keep those shovels handy.

“Normally, January is the coldest month and we expect anywhere from December through February to get these Arctic outbreaks, but January is typically the peak month, so it’s a bit unusual in that it came earlier than normal in terms of both the severity and longevity of the outbreak,” said Jackson.

“We do get these Arctic outbreaks three or four times a year and they usually last few days, sometimes up to a week or more. Some years they’re more mild and fewer of them, but other years we have longer periods and they’re more intense, in other words, colder peak minimum temperatures.”