Be prepared to keep digging for the next few days

Okanaganites are still digging themselves out of what shaped up to be the biggest snowstorm in 78 years.

Okanaganites are still digging themselves out of what shaped up to be the biggest snowstorm in 78 years.

“In Kelowna we recorded 33 centimetres at the airport, but there have also been reports from respectable sources around town of 38 centimetres of snow,” said Lisa Coldwells, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

That matches a record set  Nov. 12 and 13, 1937. The measurement taken near the city core after a two-day storm at that time was also 38 centimetres.

“This was a remarkable weather event, not only in Kelowna,” she said. “We had records set from Kamloops to Salmon Arm and down to Penticton. All across the Southern Interior, where it was dry, they had an amazing amount of snow.”

The reason for the unusually heavy dump of snow came from what meteorologist Doug Lundquist called “a clash of the air masses.”

Moist, warm air from the southern US states collided overhead with a cold blast of winter air  from Alberta.

“We are in the in-between zone,” Lundquist said. “It’s a clash of air masses —a big clash.”

Going forward, however, the weather drama appears to be over—Coldwells doesn’t predict more precipitation records being shattered

“We will return to what I like to call typical January weather,” she said. “The Okanagan will stay under a dull grey blanket for the next week, with temperatures ranging from 2 C to -2C. So it will take a while for the snow to melt.”

It’s not great news for Central Okanagan school superintendent Hugh Gloster.

For the first time in his 35 years in the district a “snow day” was called, shuttering schools for two days.

The sheer volume of snow falling made the first day of school closures a no-brainer, but day two was chalked up to unsafe pathways to and from school. Classes will resume Wednesday, but it’s unlikely that the snow lingering on pathways to and from schools will be cleared and that’s prompted Gloster to turn to the community for help.

“Now we’re making a public appeal to ask folks who live in the vicinity of schools to help clear sidewalks and pathways in front of their homes so students can have a safe passage to school,” he said.  “It’s those youngest ones we’re worried about. We’re also asking that motorists be hyper vigilant around kids who are making their way to school.”

Although the district made the decision with safety in mind, they didn’t escape criticism.

Grade 12 students who are already facing a truncated school year due to last year’s teachers strike have lost another block of classes, and complaints have filtered into the district.

“It’s not an ideal situation, but we’re used to adjusting,” said Gloster.

Adjusting might just be the theme of the snow storm.

Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan lost at least a day of classes, and the airport saw 10 flights cancelled due to unmanageable ice.

With a great deal of effort, things returned to normal in those locations.

All that’s  left is cleaning up side streets and sidewalks.

The City clears snow and de-ices municipal roads (excluding highways 33 and 97) based on their priority status. Priority 1 includes high-traffic roads such as Gordon Drive. Priority 2 includes collector roads such as Richter Street, bus routes, school zones, town centers and emergency vehicle stations. Priority 3 includes local roads within neighbourhoods and Priority 4 includes laneways.

While the City keeps the roads clear, residents are responsible for clearing snow from their private driveway and sidewalks adjacent to their property within a day of the snow falling.  Some residents find snow clearing a difficult task, particularly seniors and those with an injury or disability. The City encourages residents to help out their neighbours by becoming a Snow Buster.

The Fire Department is also asking residents to clear snow away from fire hydrants in front of their property. This ensures easy access in the case of emergency.

For regular inquires and emergency plowing or sanding after regular business hours, please call 250-469-8600, option 1. Residents can also report a problem online by visiting


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