High-mountain passes will likely see some snow fall on the weekend. Drive safely! File photo.

Say it ain’t snow! Early winter blast expected for Kootenays, Okanagan

It’s going to look like winter, and feel like winter, as Arctic air meets a wet coastal system

Winter is coming. And likely a lot sooner than you think.

Two weather systems will meet south of the border this weekend, bringing snow and freezing temperatures to high mountain passes in the Kootenays and the Okanagan that may extend to the valley bottoms.

“The pattern is difficult to say how it is going to play out, and the computer models are unresolved in local details,” says Ron Lakeman, a weather forecaster with the Southeast Fire Centre in Castlegar. “But everything is pointing to an unseasonably cool air mass moving in.”

It’s a pattern that’s more common in November, says Lakeman.

A high-pressure mass of modified Arctic air is moving this way from the north and east, so will likely enter the Kootenays from Alberta, he says. That’s going to combine with a typical fall low (wet weather) system from the coast. The two will clash over Washington state.

“Things are going to change drastically,” says Lakeman. “It’s basically Friday night to Saturday morning we see temperatures dropping, likely precipitation and a dropping snow level. So the debate is where will the snow level drop, and where will the precipitation actually fall in the form of snow.”

Lakeman says the East Kootenay looks to be the most likely recipient of valley bottom snow.

If it does happen, it should melt instantly, says Lakeman, but it will have broken a long record.

“It’s not to say it hasn’t happened before, but we only have one instance of it ever snowing to the valley bottom locally in September,” says the Castlegar-based forecaster. “It was back in 1972, we had a trace in the month of September.”

Just to add to the joy, Lakeman says it’s likely going to be a windy day on Saturday, with the possibility of wind chill making things even more miserable.

A lot depends on the cloud cover. If the skies clear after the rain, it will likely go below zero in many locations on Sunday and Monday.

Local ski resorts including Red Mountain, Whitewater and Big White are all expecting more than 10 cm of snow.

Road crews ready, gardeners not so much

Road maintenance crews are getting ready for the first blast on the highways.

“We’ve been prepared for winter for a few weeks,” said an employee at Yellowhead Road and Bridge, which has the maintenance contract for the Kootenays. “We’re geared up and ready to go for this weekend, the crews scheduled have been informed.”

The news of the impending frost and snow has gardeners battening down the hatches.

“The end is near!” said one poster on Farm the Kootenays, a Facebook group.

“We picked our [tomatoes] today, I do not want them to get too cold on the vine,” added another.

While many vegetables — cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli — can take some cold, other plants are going to get wiped out by the cold temperatures. Kiss your cucumbers and watermelons goodbye.

Other gardeners are hoping tarps and plastic sheets will stave off the early frost, holding out for a nice weather break in October.

It could be worse — you could be in Alberta. There, snow showers are forecast for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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