Treacherous journeys in Alberta as snowstorm intensifies and cold weather follows

Treacherous journeys in Alberta as snowstorm intensifies and cold weather follows

Treacherous journeys in Alberta as snowstorm intensifies and cold weather follows

A double whammy of brutal winter weather is taking shape across the Prairies this week as a stark pattern reversal unfolds.

Alberta will feel the wrath of winter first as heavy snow crosses the southern reaches and lasts through Tuesday. This has made travel treacherous in parts of the province, and commuters can expect the same for Tuesday morning’s hike. In some areas 30-40 cm of snow can be seen, locally up to 50 cm.

From behind the snow comes a gust of arctic air, promising the region’s coldest temperatures since December. Wind chill readings could dip into dangerous territory in the coming week. This Thursday, the high of -23°C in Calgary is 24°C below the season for late February, with the normal high close to 1°C.

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Winter returns with significant potential for snow

A strong Arctic front sweeping across eastern British Columbia and western Alberta will continue to bring heavy snow to the regions through Tuesday.

The depression has plenty of cold air and Pacific moisture to work with, contributing to the high snowfall numbers.



After a short break, the main event was postponed to Monday afternoon. Snow increased in intensity Monday evening and continued well into the night, creating treacherous conditions for Tuesday morning’s trail.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has issued a snowfall warning for most of western Alberta and urges travelers to plan ahead and keep others informed of their travel plans and to carry an emergency kit and cell phone with them at all times.

Heavier snowfall rates will continue through Tuesday morning and will lighten in the afternoon and evening. Snow will be light and fluffy due to arctic air so totals could be higher than expected.

AB snow February 20, 2023

AB snow February 20, 2023

Total snowfall will be significant in the western half of Alberta, ranging from south of Grande Prairie to the southern border and as far east as Medicine Hat. The amounts in this swath range from 10 to 40 cm, with most of it along the foothills where accumulations can reach up to 50 cm locally.

The cities of Calgary, Hinton and Lethbridge will be right in the middle, with projections of 20-30cm for these areas.

As a result, travel in southern parts of Alberta will be severely impacted as this incursion of arctic air invades the region.

Arctic air causes temperatures to drop, the wind shower returns

Across the prairie, we have experienced a series of unusually mild temperatures for more than a month. This stretch of consistently transseasonal conditions will quickly come to an end as this thrust of arctic air plummets south.

Prairie temperature differences to normal February 19, 2023 PM update

Prairie temperature differences to normal February 19, 2023 PM update

The coldest air associated with the trough will pour over the region on Tuesday and remain there for several days before easing somewhat.

The deep cold sweeping into Alberta will keep temperatures in Calgary and Edmonton firmly in the double digits from Monday night through Saturday morning.

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Regina and Saskatoon will see the coldest air Monday night and Tuesday. Every city will grapple with several days of high temperatures in the -20s, with Saskatoon expected to hit -23C on Wednesday.

Winnipeg will face Wednesday and Thursday, with daily highs only rising to around -22C and overnight lows expected to hit -30C several times throughout the week.

AB Windchill February 20, 2023

AB Windchill February 20, 2023

While these certainly aren’t the coldest temperatures we’ve seen, it will feel particularly harsh given how mild the prairies have been in 2023.

Winds certainly won’t help either. Wind chill levels will drop into the -30s and approach -40 for the duration of the coldest air next week, increasing the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Exposed skin can develop frostbite in as little as 10 minutes, with wind chill levels reaching -40.

This cold air does not go away so quickly. Subseasonal temperatures will continue through much of the prairie through the end of the month.

Frostbite graphic

Frostbite graphic

Thumbnail courtesy of Inam Jamil/Twitter.

Stay tuned to The Weather Network for the latest weather conditions on the prairie.


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