Heavy snowfall in the Hay River area this month has presented some challenges compared to last year, but weather data shows amounts aren’t out of the ordinary.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, this month saw low snowfall up until Feb. 12 and 14, when there were single day amounts of 5.4 cm and 5 cm, respectively.
As of Friday there had been 16.9 cm during the month.
Meteorologist Sara Hoffman said NAV Canada provides unofficial snowfall data from the Hay River airport. The federal government officially recognizes winter as Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, and up to Feb. 16, Hay River has seen 57.7 cm of snow.
Comparatively over the whole winter of 2021, there was only 34.2 cm of snow.
The historical average of winter snowfall measurements in town, based on data stretching back to 1944, is 62.5 cm.
“So last year was well below a normal snowfall year if you compared it to an average year,” Hoffman said. “If you compare 2021 to this year, this year might feel like more than usual.”
She added that she doesn’t expect this year to stand out as a heavy snowfall year, either, when comparing it to winters of the recent past. In 2017, for example, there was 152 cm of snow over the winter.
Temperature-wise, the town has seen average numbers up to Feb. 16.
For winter 2022, the seasonal average temperature has been -23.7 C, while a typical Hay River winter sees an average temperature of -21.3 C.
Glenn Smith, senior administrative officer, said the town conducts daily monitoring of the weather forecasts and he said this month’s snowfall has put pressure on the town’s procedures for snow clearing and road maintenance.
“Coming into February we had fairly favourable conditions this winter for snow removal,” he said. “February has been challenging with extreme fluctuations in temperatures and frequent periods of precipitation.
“February and early November presented some challenges with keeping up with demand. Overall, we’ve seen improvements to winter road and sidewalk maintenance procedures.”
He added that the municipality follows a “prioritized schedule” when it comes to clearing snow. During clearance cycles this month, it has not been uncommon to have to restart those cycles before finishing a job.
The town has had to rely on additional help from private contractors in town to help with snow-clearing efforts.
Smith said he expects the latest snowfalls to likely have little effect moving into the spring flood season, however, it will be important to monitor regional snowpack data as April approaches.
“We’ve got over two months of snowfall ahead of us (and we’re) crossing (our) fingers that those months can be calmer and we get a favourable snow melt season,” he said.
Anecdotally, Hoffman said the spring and fall have the highest snowfall amounts during a year because the winter is typically so cold.
Chuck Lirette, trail and maintenance supervisor with the Hay River Ski club, said the trails have required extra effort to be conditioned for use.
“We had to pack down all of the trails I think three times in the last week so that we could finally get out there with the groomers and groom them and put down a classic track,” he said, estimating there is about three feet or 91 cm of snow in the area.
“There was a lot of work and a lot of packing, but we covered our trails and they’re good to go.”