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Okanagan’s first winter snowfall comes unusually late

Click to play video: 'First snowfall of winter in the Okanagan'
First snowfall of winter in the Okanagan
It has been long anticipated in the Okanagan's valley bottom, snow, and mother nature finally delivered prompting residents to dust off their shovels and snowblowers. As Klaudia Van Emmerik reports, the valley's first significant snowfall is unusually late this season. – Jan 9, 2024

The Okanagan’s first significant snowfall has arrived unusually late compared to previous years.

“We waited a while for this to come and it finally arrived but it came with such a dump,” said West Kelowna resident Judith Buckley. “It was unbelievable.”

The valley bottom received anywhere from four to 10 centimetres of snow, which started falling Monday afternoon.

“It was sad having a green Christmas but better late than never, I guess,” said West Kelowna resident Mark Harvey. “We kind of need the snow for the drought conditions, so bring it on.”

With 2023 being the driest year ever recorded for Kelowna, the snow is badly needed.

“As we move into 2024 we want to see more major snow events and heavy rain events…to be able to replenish the moisture in the soil, and also to help keep that wildfire season at bay,” said Global News meteorologist Peter Quinlan.

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The first late-season snowfall is blamed on weather pattern El Nino, which typically brings in warmer and drier-than-normal conditions.

“This is definitely one of the latest starts we’ve ever recorded,” Quinlan said. “Usually we do see our first sticking snow, we call it, in December, if not in November.”

Click to play video: 'Traffic Tips: A refresher in winter driving'
Traffic Tips: A refresher in winter driving

It offered a reprieve compared to previous years for snow removal crews, typically in the thick of it this late in the season.

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“In my 10 years, 2023 was the driest, lightest season I’ve seen for snow accumulation,” said Andrew Schwerdtfeger, roadways operations manager for the City of Kelowna.

But after the lull, crews in Kelowna have been out in full force over the last 24, working to treat and clear the roads.

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“We have 40 pieces of equipment out right now, about 22 trucks for graders, the rest of our smaller equipment like our sidewalk plows, but we respond as quickly as we can because the conditions were slippery last night, you know, there was a safety risk,” Schwerdtfeger added.

With the first significant snowfall, residents are also being reminded of what to do and what not to do as crews make the rounds clearing the snow.

“We saw a lot of residents blowing their snow out onto the road where we’d already cleared them off and you know, that’s only going to impact your neighbours,” Schwerdtfeger said.

“We don’t go back to plow all the roads if you’re putting all the snow from your driveway on the road, so that’s frustrating.”

Residents are also being reminded to be mindful of not parking on the road following a snowfall for easier access to clear the road and drivers are also being urged to exercise caution around snow removal vehicles.

“We also had some aggressive drivers trying to cut in between some of our graders early this morning, some of our plow equipment and some close calls, so please just give the equipment and the operator space,” Schwerdtfeger said.

“Don’t try and pass them on the right. You know you’re running the risk of you going off the road, compromising our operator safety and damaging your vehicle.”

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The Okanagan is expecting another four  centimetres of snow by the end of the week but Mother Nature is  also about to throw in some frigid temperatures to make it really feel like winter.

“We are going to see a major Arctic outbreak, a piece of the polar vortex …the arctic air that’s usually over the North Pole is slumping over the prairies,” said Quinlan. “Its influence spreading into the interior. That is going to push overnight lows into the minus 20s. We could see morning wind chills into the minus 30s.”

Click to play video: 'Windy weather on B.C.’s South Coast brings power outages, cancelled ferry sailings'
Windy weather on B.C.’s South Coast brings power outages, cancelled ferry sailings

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