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January's warm weather sets record for Winnipeg

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Abnormally warm weather has closed the Red River Mutual Trail and the skating rink at The Forks Sunday January 22, 2017.</p>

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Abnormally warm weather has closed the Red River Mutual Trail and the skating rink at The Forks Sunday January 22, 2017.

January showers bring February flowers? Not likely.

Still, temperatures in Winnipeg have now been above zero for a record time in January, with slight rain falling over the weekend and a high of 2 C on Saturday.

As of 11 a.m. on Sunday, it had been 55 consecutive hours above freezing, handily eclipsing the old mark of 44 hours, set in 2002. With a forecast high of plus-1 C this afternoon, Fulton was confident that the new record would reach into "the 60's (hours)".

"This is the longest we've gone in January above zero," said Dan Fulton, a meteorologist with Environment Canada's Winnipeg office. "That's pretty unusual. Almost a good 24 hours longer than the old record."

The heavy snowfall that had been dumped on the city during the last month continued to thaw, as snow ruts on streets have been replaced with wet roads and exposed pot holes.

In fact, the scene in Winnipeg on Sunday appeared very spring-like, with gravel laced snowbanks and dirty slush everywhere - including a blanket of fog in the morning.

"This is almost like a southern Ontario winter," Fulton said. "You get your cold but it warms up and it thaws."

Such fluxuations above and below zero can create icy road conditions in the evening, Fulton warned. "The freeze-thaw cycle doesn't do wonders for the roads, either, the structure of them," he added.

This isn't the first time Winnipeg has experienced record breaking mild weather this winter.

The city had its warmest November in 144 years in 2016, with an average temperature of 3.2 C. The previous record for the month was 1.3 C, set in 1872.

Fulton said the effects of global warming will most likely continue to make such records more commonplace.

"This is what you expect with climate change, basically," he said. "We aren't breaking near as many records for cold, but we are starting to break (them) for warm temperatures.

"It depends how fast it (global warming) happens. But the fact we've seen such changes - in November, especially - this is probably more of what we'll be seeing in the future."

The temperatures are expected to drop in the coming days to seasonal averages.

Environment Canada forecast: Sunday, 1 C, periods of light snow. Monday, -1 C, chance of flurries. Tuesday, -1 C, mix of sun and cloud. But by the weekend, the forecast for Winnipeg is highs of -11 Con Friday and -13 C on Saturday.

For some, the return to normal temperatures can't some soon enough.

The Forks was forced to close the Red River Mutual ice skating trail this week, along with the skating pond under the canopy by the Forks Market.

"It (the canopy rink) is basically a puddle today," said Forks marketing and communications manager Chelsea Thomson.

The trail, meanwhile, was closed because above zero temperatures made it impossible to maintain the surface or move grooming equipment onto the river ice. Thomson said this usually becomes an issue in early spring, but rarely, if ever, in January.

"This is definitely not normal for us," she said.

But Thomson said both the river trail and canopy rink will be re-opened as soon as possible, noting that they provide a valuable attraction to the site.

For example, Thomson noted that The Forks had over 22,000 visitors to the market building alone last weekend.

"Absolutely, when the Red River Mutual Trail is open, we get the crowds to come. It's tough to have winter and not be able to do all the things that winter brings."

However, at Holiday Mountain Resort in La Riviere, it was business as usual. Bernice Later, the ski resort's general manager, said the heavy snowfall in late December and early January was holding up well, in spite of the melt.

"We're still 100 percent open," Later said. "I can certainly see that there's a difference on the base, because I know how much snow we had a week ago. It's been worrisome, but I'm happy to say it's minus-1 where we are right now and it looks like we've broken the trend.

"It's the skepticism factor," she added. "I can't tell you how many calls we had (on Saturday) asking if we were going to be open at all today. People assume that if it's melting and muddy in the city there's no snow left at the ski hill.

"Once people realize we really do have the snow the warm weather brings out the families. It hasn't affected the crowds negatively at all."

Meanwhile, fishermen in some parts of Manitoba are flocking to the ice to take advantage of the relative warm spell.

"There were literally hundreds of fishermen with tents," said Curtis Beyak, co-owner of Lake Winnipeg Ice Fish Shack Rentals, near Grand Marais. "Most people were just sitting on lawn chairs by their trucks and fishing all day long. It was quite the sight.

"It has created very spring-like atmosphere on Lake Winnipeg," Beyak added. "It's more end-of-March conditions where it's messy and slushy, just like our city streets. It's quite the weather change, that's for sure.

"(But) The structure of the ice....is still not compromised at this time. It's messy as hell but it's not dangerous at this time."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @randyturner15

Read more by Randy Turner.

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History

Updated on Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 1:24 PM CST: Update

8:19 PM: fixes typo

9:03 PM: fixes typo

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