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White stuff not going away soon

It's melting, but don't expect quick disappearance

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Colin Lambert, left, owner of Sk8 Skates at The Forks, made a Facebook event inviting users of the Plaza skatepark at the Forks to come today and help snow plow, shovel, ice chip and push water to get the park in dry usable condition as soon as possible in Winnipeg on Monday.

CRYSTAL SCHICK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Colin Lambert, left, owner of Sk8 Skates at The Forks, made a Facebook event inviting users of the Plaza skatepark at the Forks to come today and help snow plow, shovel, ice chip and push water to get the park in dry usable condition as soon as possible in Winnipeg on Monday. Photo Store

Brace yourself, Winnipeg: It could be Easter weekend before it starts to look like spring.

"The snow you have is pretty hard and crusting and compacted, but I just feel a week from now there will still be some snow," said Dave Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist.

"But long-term, in the next 15 days you will have a second wave of warmer temperatures so later next week the snow will melt in my opinion."

Environment Canada is predicting the mercury will top out at 7 C today, 14 C on Wednesday, 7 C on Thursday, 10 C on Friday, 6 C on Saturday and 3 C on Sunday.

Couple that with a few mild overnight temperatures, including 1 C on Tuesday night, 0 C on Wednesday night and -1 C on Friday night, and you can anticipate a fair amount of the white stuff will be turning into wet stuff in the next few days.

Phillips said you would have to turn back the calendar to the third week of October to get this many daytimes in a row with above-freezing temperatures.

Phillips said in Winnipeg, using the most accurate method of measurement -- a Manitoba Environment Canada employee sticking a yardstick in his own backyard -- the city's layer of snow is about 38 to 40 centimetres deep.

'The snow you have is pretty hard and crusting and compacted, but I just feel a week from now there will still be some snow'

-- Dave Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist

It could be worse: The record for the greatest depth of snow on the ground in Winnipeg was 91 cm on Jan. 30, 1956, while the deepest amount after April 7 was 60 cm on April 9, 10 and 11, in 1997 -- not so coincidentally, the year of the Flood of the Century.

Phillips said last year on April 7 there were 37 cm of snow in the city and it took until April 27 to disappear. He said not just warmer temperatures, but rain, wind, and humidity can cause snow to melt faster.

While Phillips relies on years of experience along with his gut, even the province's experts in flood forecasting can't predict how quickly the snow will disappear in the city.

Steve Topping, the province's executive director of hydrologic forecasting and water management, said because there are so many factors "there's no real way to estimate it."

Topping said topography, whether the snow is on a slope shielded somewhat from the sun, if the snow is part of a deeper snowdrift, and what type of surface the snow is on also affects how quickly it disappears.

"There really is no real answer," he said.

Phillips cautioned that, "On average, 12 per cent of the season's snow falls in April."

"You've had three centimetres in April already. You can't rule out more snow."

Phillips said Winnipeggers are on the wrong side of history because in the last 64 winters, the snow has been gone 48 times by April 7.

While the experts don't know for sure when the snow will be gone, Carlo Bruneau, executive director of the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association, said no matter how much snow may still be on the ground, outdoor season for youths 13 to 18 kicks off on April 25.

But Bruneau said he can only say that because he has a secret weapon: the Waverley Soccer Complex has artificial turf and can get the snow off.

"We don't start playing on natural turf until May 9 -- we've built a buffer there," he said.

The complex's artificial surface means training for the provincial program is happening this week even though any balls kicked off the field will end up in snow.

It's the same thing with the upcoming Canada's national women's soccer team versus the United States on May 8. The game is being held at the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- Investors Group Field -- which also has artificial turf from which any snow can be cleared. (Phillips said snow has made a guest appearance in 45 of the last 70 months of May.)

"We need more of these fields," Bruneau said, noting another one is opening this summer in St. Vital.

"But we're lucky... to have these pitches available to us. As for the grass fields, we're not panicking -- it was like this last year. We were spoiled two years ago."

Itching to hit a golf ball on a fairway? It's likely not a good sign when the few golf courses the Free Press tried calling still had their answering-machine messages on, stating they were closed for the season or taking messages for summer golf tournament dates.

Dave Hanson, co-owner of Sage Garden Herbs, said while thousands of Winnipeg residents are facing problems with frozen water pipes or being asked to run their water constantly, the long cold winter shouldn't have posed a problem for perennials, fruit trees or other shrubs, trees or plants.

"All of the snow is a good thing," Hanson said.

"It got cold in November and December and then the snow came and it didn't go away. There was adequate snow cover when we got to the cold season. The plants are pretty cosy underneath.

"Snow provides a remarkable amount of insulation... I feel good about the plants."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

When do you think the snow will be all gone? Join the coversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 8, 2014 A3

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