This tree fell between two houses on 7th Avenue in Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline

Downed trees, snow and wind cause headaches across West Kootenay

Almost 40 cm of snow fell over the weekend.

Old Man Winter wreaked havoc in the West Kootenay over the weekend and area residents woke up Monday morning to school closures, power outages, busing delays and downed trees.

School District 20 cancelled busses to Red Mountain, Redstone and Pass Creek Monday morning, but did offer alternate pickup locations. The district also advised that buses will not run in other areas if roads were not plowed and sanded.

School District 8 closed schools in Nelson, Kaslo, Salmo, Slocan Valley, and East Shore.

The power was out on Kootenay Lake’s North Shore from Longbeach to Coffee Creek and in Procter. Nelson Hydro expects to have power restored by noon as crews deal with a tree that came down on the main lines and damaged a pole.

Highway 31 has reopened just north of Ainsworth after snow was removed from the road.

The weather station located at the West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar measured 38 centimetres of snow over the last few days. There was 19.2 cm of snow on Friday, 3.8 cm on Saturday and 15 cm on Sunday.

The record for most snowfall on a single January day was 43.7 cm set in 1969.

Before this weather system arrived, accumulated snowfall on the ground at the Castlegar weather station was 24 cm. As of Monday morning it was 55 cm.

Southeast Fire Centre weather forecaster Jesse Ellis explained that because the air mass moving through the region was unstable there could be a wide range of localized differences in snowfall totals.

Peak winds overnight Sunday also varied depending on location. Wind gusts up to 96 km/h were measured at Revelstoke while Nakusp only saw winds of 18 km/h. Nelson measured wind gusts of 40 km/h and Sparwood measured 70 km/h winds. The Castlegar station measures winds manually, so a peak reading is not available, but winds were gusting to 52 km/h first thing Monday morning.

“This air mass is a modified arctic air mass,” explained Ellis. “The air mass originated in the Arctic, but begins to gradually warm up as they push further south.”

Ellis says that because this air mass is heavy and dense, as it moves through the valley bottoms wind speeds can vary greatly.

Frigid temperatures are the main weather story for the next few days however, with temperatures expected to plummet to –19 C in Castlegar overnight Monday. The extremely cold temperatures will remain until Wednesday.

“Arctic air masses are usually drier,” said Ellis. “You can expect less snow to shovel between now and Thursday.”

Ellis says by Wednesday night, we can expect things to begin to change again as the first of a series of Pacific frontal systems moves into the area. The systems should arrive a few days apart, and increase in intensity.

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