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Blizzard brings extreme winds across Kivalliq

Low-pressure system intensified over Hudson Bay
A portion of the roof appeared to have blown off the Simon Alaittuq School in Rankin Inlet, as reported by Luke Webb. Photo courtesy of Luke Webb

The first blizzard of the season for the Kivalliq was a big one, bringing extremely high winds to several communities, power outages and damage to structures.

“We had a very powerful low-pressure system that intensified over Hudson Bay, and that brought your widespread blizzard conditions and those incredibly strong and damaging winds to areas of the eastern Kitikmeot, Kivalliq, obviously through Hudson Bay as well and even into Nunavik,” explained Jesse Wagar, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

“This will end up being a pretty prolonged, long-term blizzard event, over two to three days, depending on which community.”

Conditions developed early in the week, hitting Baker Lake and Arviat before Rankin Inlet experienced the winds Wednesday, Nov. 22.

The way low-pressure systems develop, explained Wagar, is such that the outer edges of the system have the highest winds, so if the low pressure develops right over you, you won’t experience much wind, just snow or freezing drizzle.

“Once the low started to move farther into Hudson Bay, it sort of dragged that pressure gradient eastward towards Rankin,” said Wagar.

She called the conditions a double whammy of high winds and bad visibility.

“Not only was it the first blizzard of the season, but it was a pretty powerful one at that. The wind speeds were very high, extremely high,” said Wagar.

Arviat’s peak recorded windspeed was 119 km/h, with Baker Lake hitting 126 km/h and both Chesterfield Inlet and Rankin Inlet at 100 km/h.

“It wasn’t just one wind gust and everything died off,” said Wagar, adding that ECCC is still waiting to confirm other wind gust numbers as some areas experienced power outages that prevented tracking.

“It does look like we’ll be approaching wind gust records for the month of November,” she said.

A doorway completely blocked by snow in Baker Lake. Photo courtesy of Candice Kabloona
A doorway completely blocked by snow in Baker Lake. Photo courtesy of Candice Kabloona

The last few years in the Kivalliq have seen fewer blizzards than normal, said Wagar, possibly attributed to the La Nina climate pattern. That shifted this year to El Nino, though Wagar noted one can’t make direct correlations as blizzards are complicated events.

She hoped everyone had time to heed the weather warnings.

“We are obviously concerned about the communities and just hope everybody was able to stay safe and take those precautions before the blizzard hit.”

Kivalliq News asked the Department of Community and Government Services for any information regarding the roof appearing to come off Simon Alaittuq School in Rankin Inlet due to the winds, but at the time, CGS had not yet been able to gather enough information due to the weather.

Gjoa Haven saw some blizzard conditions as well. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hiqiniq
Snow piles outside the windows in Rankin Inlet. Photo courtesy of Cathy Towtongie
A scene from the power outage in Arviat. Photo courtesy of Jeannie Alikut
At least some nice weather was reported in Naujaat. Photo courtesy of Crystal Okalik
Chesterfield Inlet endures whiteout conditions. Photo courtesy of Louissa Kukkiak
The Jordin Tootoo welcome sign can barely be seen just metres away. Photo courtesy of Noel Kaludjak
Tiffany Aupilardjuk snapped this photo while headed to the only store open in Rankin Inlet during the blizzard — Red Top. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Aupilardjuk
A lot of snow and not much else can be seen from this Arviat window. Photo courtesy of Jessie Anowtalik
A snowy scene out the door in Arviat. Photo courtesy of Cindy Pauppa
Willie Mukyunik tries to block cold air from coming in during the power outage in Arviat. Photo courtesy of Tamar Mukyunik
How the scene looked over in Taloyoak. Photo courtesy of Sarah Kakiarniut Uquqtuq
Damage to stairs seen in Baker Lake. Photo courtesy of Sally Paungrat
In Rankin Inlet, Martha Hickes was glad to see her Starlink stay in position despite the winds. Photo courtesy of Martha Hickes