Advertisement

Snow what? Wild June weather wallops western Alberta, tourists rescued in Jasper

Click to play video: 'Rare June snowfall warning in the Rocky Mountains, Marmot Basin shares snow photos'
Rare June snowfall warning in the Rocky Mountains, Marmot Basin shares snow photos
Marmot Basin ski resort in Jasper said it got around 20 centimetres of snow and Environment Canada issued an unusual June snowfall warning for the Rocky Mountains, including the Highway 93 icefields parkway. – Jun 19, 2023

On a June day when much of the province was dealing with a deluge of rain, far western Alberta woke up to a precipitation of a different nature.

Wet, heavy snow — and lots of it — fell Monday in Jasper, along Highway 93 south to Banff, and on Highway 40 north of the Yellowhead near Grande Cache.

The snow also caused a temporary closure of the road to Miette Hot Springs because part of it washed out.

“We had a developing low-pressure system on Sunday over the central portion of the province,” said Sara Hoffman, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“That was associated with a lot of cold air aloft flooding into the province, helping create these quite heavy showers over west-central portions of the province in Yellowhead County, including Jasper and especially the Grande Cache area, and the Hinton area all the way to the B.C. border.”

Story continues below advertisement
Snow at Marmot Basin Ski Resort on Monday, June 19, 2023. Courtesy: Brian Rode

In Jasper National Park, both rain and snow fell Monday.

Up at Marmot Basin Ski Resort, the white stuff coated the ground and left a nearly foot-thick layer on patio furniture at the lower chalet.

Snow at Marmot Basin Ski Resort on Monday, June 19, 2023. Courtesy: Brian Rode

Snow atop mountains is not unexpected at any time of year, but it falling to the valley below during the summer months is another story.

Story continues below advertisement

Parks Canada said more than 100 mm of rain and 55 cm of snow were recorded in some places Monday.

If you haven’t heard from a friend or family member travelling in Jasper, Parks Canada is asking people to reach out to them.

Click to play video: 'Alberta tourists stranded by snowfall in June'
Alberta tourists stranded by snowfall in June

“If you’re aware of a backcountry camper who hasn’t checked in or arrived at their destination as anticipated, please call Parks Canada Dispatch at 780-852-6155. If you are aware of a motorist who hasn’t reached their destination, call the RCMP at 780-852-4848,” a Tuesday bulletin said.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Parks Canada said it brought approximately 60 people to safety on Monday, including hikers on the Skyline trail, paddlers on Maligne Lake and two tour buses full of passengers from Maligne Road, and in a Tuesday update said staff continue to respond to stranded travellers.

Story continues below advertisement

Two tour buses tried to drive up Maligne Lake Road and became stuck in snow more than foot deep.

A tour bus got stuck on Maligne Lake Road in Jasper National Park on Monday, June 19, 2023.
A tour bus got stuck on Maligne Lake Road in Jasper National Park on Monday, June 19, 2023. Credit: Parks Canada

The buses got stuck somewhere near Medicine Lake, so Parks Canada sent a plough up to clear a path so the roughly 40 passengers could be transferred back down.

“They’ll have stories to tell when they get home, that’s for sure,” said Dave Argument, a resource conservation manager with Parks Canada.

“It sounds like one bus was a load of primarily German tourists.

“It’d be a bit of an adventure for them — they didn’t get to see Maligne Lake but had a mountain adventure nonetheless.”

The Parks Canada plough then went farther up — or at least tried to, before it got stuck itself.

Story continues below advertisement

Parks Canada said fortunately, no significant injuries have been reported, although the local newspaper said two groups campers — one at Tekarra Campground and the other at Fisherman’s Bay — required help after their tents collapsed due to the wet, heavy snow overnight and they began to suffer from the effects of the cold.

“This is just a case in point for why it’s important to make sure you’re carrying emergency communications equipment. That’s key,” Argument told the Jasper Fitzhugh.

On Tuesday, Parks Canada said Maligne Road will remain closed for at least 48 to 72 hours to allow for any avalanches triggered by the storm to come down and to complete debris removal.

Heavy rain and snow caused part of Miette Road to wash out in Jasper National Park. Photo taken June 20, 2023. Credit: Parks Canada

The snow also delayed the opening of Cavell Road and caused the temporary closure of the road to Miette Hot Springs because part of it washed out.

Story continues below advertisement

Parks Canada said it expects to have the Miette Road open for single-lane traffic for visitors to leave the hot springs area by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

In an update around 10 p.m., Parks Canada said 62 people had left safely from Miette Hot Springs and all remaining guests and staff will be leaving on Wednesday morning.

Parks Canada said it expected all guests and staff to drive past the washout on Miette Road by 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

It said there were some delays in clearing the road once crews were able to get past the washout, but guests had single-lane access down the mountain as of Tuesday night.

Parks Canada will be assessing road stability with the help of engineers. The government agency said it will issue an update on the full reopening of the road at a later date.

Heavy rain and snow caused part of Miette Road to wash out in Jasper National Park. Photo taken June 20, 2023. Credit: Parks Canada

The unseasonal heavy snow downed several trees throughout the national park and the municipality of Jasper itself.

Story continues below advertisement

Parks Canada sent out chainsaw crews to remove the deadfall from roads and trails. The snow in Jasper then turned into rain around noon.

On Monday, a big snowfall also hit Highway 40 north of Hinton near Grande Cache. Video sent to Global News showed passenger vehicles and semis spinning out.

Click to play video: 'Wet, heavy snow snarls traffic on Highway 40 near Grande Cache, Alta.'
Wet, heavy snow snarls traffic on Highway 40 near Grande Cache, Alta.

Snowfall warnings that were issued Monday remained in effect Tuesday for Highway 93 from Jasper to Saskatchewan River Crossing and then on to Lake Louise as well.

Environment Canada said a long period of heavy, wet snow continues with total amounts of 20 to 40 cm, with the highest amounts over higher elevations.

Snow levels currently near valley bottom were expected to rise Tuesday morning. The snow will taper off by Tuesday night, the national weather agency said.

Story continues below advertisement

Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times and people thinking about driving the Icefields Parkway were told to consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve.

— with files from Scott Hayes, Jasper Fitzhugh and Destiny Meilleur, Global News

Sponsored content

AdChoices