After a beautiful fall that saw many days of above seasonal temperatures, a Pacific low is expected to bring winter weather to much of central and southern Alberta on Friday.
Environment Canada issued special weather statements, snowfall and wind warnings Thursday for much of the western half of the province — including the Edmonton region, Grande Prairie, Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Highway 93 between Jasper and Banff in the mountains.
Initially, Environment Canada said there was some uncertainty as to where the majority of the snow would fall so a broad special weather statement was issued for much of Alberta — however later Thursday, the alerts were narrowed down as meteorologists became more certain where the Pacific low would have the greatest impact.
Snowfall warnings and special weather statements
Calgary region and southern Alberta
A drastic change in conditions is expected for southern Alberta on Friday, according to Environment Canada’s special weather statement.
Specifically, temperatures in the Calgary, Lethbridge, Brooks and Medicine Hat regions are expected initially to be well above zero on Friday — possibly in the double digits — meaning it may rain before it snows.
“As the cold front passes through the region Friday afternoon, temperatures are expected to rapidly fall below zero with snow and strong northerly winds with gusts of 60 to 80 km/h,” Environment Canada said.
“This abrupt change in weather may lead to hazardous travel conditions, and may occur during the Friday afternoon commute for some southern Alberta communities.”
Global Calgary weather anchor Jodi Hughes says Calgary’s temperatures are expected to remain below freezing from Friday night to at least Tuesday morning, meaning some of the accumulation could stick around for the weekend.
“Seasonal averages for this time of year include highs of around 13 C with lows of -1 C,” she said. “The daytime highs this weekend are expected to be between -5 C to -3 C with lows around -10 C.”
Edmonton region and central Alberta
The Pacific low is forecast to move through central B.C. Thursday night and track across south-central Alberta Friday.
The system will bring snowfall to many areas of central and southern Alberta — with the heaviest snowfall expected along the mountains and foothills. As of Thursday the city of Edmonton was not included in the snowfall warning, however outlying areas as close as Spruce Grove and Leduc were.
“Edmonton will be on the north edge of the swath of snowfall, which could leave us less hard hit than areas west and south,” Global Edmonton meteorologist Jesse Beyer said.
Snow isn’t expected to begin in the Edmonton area until later Friday morning.
“Although the temperature will be near 0 C with a brisk wind from the north at 20 to 30 km/h, Edmonton could walk away from this system with two to five centimetres of snow when it is all said and done,” Beyer added.
The highest snowfall amounts should fall southwest of a line extending from Beaverlodge to Red Deer and south towards Kananaskis.
Total accumulations are expected to approach 10 centimetres by late Friday, however local amounts of 15 centimetres or more may fall over the higher elevations.
“Travel plans to the south and west may need to be postponed,” Beyer said.
Wind warnings for southwestern Alberta
Environment Canada said strong winds that may cause damage are expected across the southwestern part of Alberta, including the Pincher Creek and Cardston areas.
Westerly winds with gust to 100 km/h are expected to develop early Friday morning before dropping off by the afternoon.
Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur and loose objects may be tossed by the wind and cause injury or damage.
Jasper and Banff could see 10 to 15 centimetres of snow, while the and the Grande Cache region and the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise could receive nearly a foot of snow by Friday afternoon.
“Highway 93 will be looking at winter storm conditions with near 20 centimetres of snow coupled with wind up to 70km/h,” Beyer said.
“Blowing snow will reduce visibility.”
Environment Canada is advising that people avoid travelling in the area if possible, saying rapidly accumulating snow could make it difficult in some areas.
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