The straight dope on the coming winter

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September 15, 2016 12:00 AM

Get ready—Ol’ Man Winter’s cruel icy knuckles will soon be rapping on your door.
We’ve all heard the rumour mill stories about how the 2016/2017 winter will be the worst in recent memory; more snow and ice and fallen temperatures than old timers recall.
Well, that’s simply not true.
Well ....
We will, according to experts contacted by the Source, have a typical prairie winter, one not seen in the past few years.
And it will come early.
Adding insult to potential hypothermia, meteorologists are predicting a “classic” winter this year, which is weatherman slang for brutally frigid and insufferably long.
“For the upcoming winter we think the pattern is going to be very different from what we saw last year where mild temperatures dominated the country, including the Lloydminster area; we think this winter will bring more of a classic winter pattern,” said Doug Gillham, meteorologist for the Weather Network.
“The uncertainty is, will the focus of the coldest air come from Alberta over to the Great Lakes, or will it be more Manitoba over to the Maritimes? The location near Lloydminster is kind of in the swing location.”
Gillham said the former was responsible for temperatures in the 2014-15 season, when most of the coldest air was to the east of the Border City, causing that winter to be relatively mild.
He likened the latter scenario to the 2013-14 season, when the coldest air came from Alberta and blew across the Prairies, with Lloydminster smack dab in the thick of it.
Either way, he predicts this winter will be colder than last year, it’s just a question of whether the cold will hit in the second half of the season, or hit early and persist.
“There’s no doubt, it’s going to be more of a classic winter pattern than last year, but Alberta and Saskatchewan is where we have the greatest amount of uncertainty of just how cold it’ll become,” he said.
“I think it’s going to swing back and forth; it’s certainly going to have periods of profoundly cold winter weather, but it is still too early to pinpoint where that focus of the coldest air will be, in Alberta over to the Great Lakes or will the focus be further to the east.”
Looking forward with a more down-home approach, local old-time farmer Darrell Wright gives some predictions based on simple observations of nature, like inspecting certain characteristics of crops and behaviours of different animals.
For instance, checking out mole holes for depth might be a good indicator of what the weather has in store.
“So two and a-half-feet is a severe winter coming, one foot is a mild winter and two feet is a not so severe one, and I noticed the moles were down two feet, so when I’m all said and done, I’m going to predict just a moderate winter.”
Paying attention to what pigs gather for winter bedding is also believed by some to foreshadow the magnitude of the coming cold.
Wright said if the swine gather leaves with their straw, this means extreme temperatures are on the way, and from his observations so far, the pigs have been sticking strictly to straw.
“And the thickness of the corn husks, the thicker they are, the harder the winter’s going to be and they are, I would say, kind of a medium thickness, so all in all I think, with those things, as an old farmer, everything comes in at a medium sort of thing; I think we’re going to be in for a harder winter than last year, but we’re just going to have a very average winter with average snowfall and average temperatures.”
Wright said his predictions of average weather pretty much fall in line with the meteorologist’s conclusions of a classic winter, which in this part of the country certainly doesn’t equate with a comfortable climate.
No matter how you cut it, the overarching message is that winter is coming and it’s going to be cold.
Stores like Home Hardware, that keeps its fingers on the weatherman’s pulse to anticipate inventory, are already planning to be fully stocked on products to keep customers warm and cozy for the winter months.
“We are very conscious of weather predictions when planning for seasonal inventory,” said Sarah Rurka, owner of Home Hardware in Lloydminster.
“We’ll stock up on everything for snow removal, such as shovels and ice scrapers, but also things like space heaters and portable fireplaces—we also ordered a wide variety of gloves, hats, scarves and mitt warmers.”
Rurka also recommends stocking up ahead of time on basics like ice melt—the merits of which will be acclaimed by anyone who took a spill or two each season because of slippery walkways.
For people whose block heaters tend to freeze up over night, Rurka reminds grabbing some extension cords and timers could save some early morning frustration.
It’s also wise to pick up shovels ahead of time to avoid the rush that happens after first snowfall.
According to Brian Proctor, meteorologist for Environment Canada, the first snowfall is predicted for mid-October, sometime around Thanksgiving, and isn’t likely to let up much because higher than normal precipitation is expected for the first half of winter.
“What we do is look at precipitation in three categories: above normal, below normal, and near normal, then we start looking at the probabilities of those categories and we’re seeing a signal that’s sort of indicating above normal precipitation for the first part of the winter and the end of the fall,” Proctor said.
All that precipitation is bound to lead to poor road conditions and the folks at Fountain Tire already have a big booking ordered for winter tires.
On top of that, the store’s four-for-three tire sale starts today, giving customers ample time to get the proper rubber for their vehicles before to roads get icy.
“We also do winter checkups and seasonal car care packages for people who want to get their car in top shape, not just for tires,” said Dale Atkinson, assistant manager at Fountain Tire.
So looking at the best guesses experts can conjure from looking into their meteorological crystal balls, Lloyd’s in for a cold one, so stock up on supplies, winterize your vehicles, and get ready to dig in until Old Man Winter releases his gelid grip on the city

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