Friday, March 20, 2009

Not Quite Winter

Welcome to the first day of "Not Quite Winter" which is more commonly known as spring. You may know the four seasons as fall, winter, spring and summer but we like to call them almost winter, winter, not quite winter and construction.

March 20 is the official start of the new season, but here on the Canadian prairies, spring and winter tend to duke it out as long as they can. Winter doesn't want to leave as it has been enjoying itself with snow, record cold weather and biting wind chills. Spring is raring to move in and start to thaw out the land and work her magic to get things ready for summer.

This past winter has been brutally long and cold. We are all pretty happy to see it end, but winter hasn't packed it in yet. This past week or so we have had a mixed bag of weather, with temps above the freezing and also temps well below 0C/32F. There was a -20C wind chill when I got up a couple of days ago. It was above zero the day before.

March and April can bring some pretty crazy weather. We really get the extremes in temps with melting one day and skating rinks on sidewalks and streets the next. We have gotten massive snowstorms in early April and even ice storms in May in past years.

This year, the first few days of the new season are looking somewhat promising with daytime highs from +2 to +9C and lows in the -4 to +1C range. This will mean a LOT of melting snow. Unfortunately, there is also rain and/or snow predicted for early next week. We don't need that! That kind of quick thaw and extra moisture from above, can do a lot for those who are tired of winter, but it can also cause a lot of problems as creeks, and rivers begin to thaw and rise.

The Manitoba government spring flood forecast was just released this past Monday and it could be a bad year for flooding if things melt too quickly or if we get any significant snow or rain in the next few weeks. Our neighbours to the south in northern Minnesota and North Dakota are expecting flooding along the Red River and its tributaries this spring due to heavy snowfall this past winter and a major snow fall about two weeks ago. That water will flow north along the Red and overflow even more as it gathers additional liquid along the way. Many of the various communities, towns and cities along the Red River are fairly well prepared with sand bags and ring dyke's ready to be put into action but there are always a number of low lying properties that tend to get some flooding regardless of the preparation. At this point, we aren't at risk for a repeat of the 1997 flood of the century that devastated many parts of the Red River Valley, but if we get any significant precipitation, we could reach levels similar to 1979 which was also a very bad year for flooding.

Personally, I've had enough of this long cold winter and wish the snow was gone, but since I grew up in a flood prone area of the Pembina Valley, I know all to well the potential damage that quick thaws can cause. It can disrupt life for days, weeks and months depending on the severity.

Getting around this time of year is a challenge as the snow melts and creates seemingly endless stretches of puddles that can be shallow or deep and often have a bit of ice hidden on the bottom. Since it is almost always below freezing overnight during this time of year, there is usually a rather bumpy skating rink like surface on the sidewalk surface to greet us every day. Then there are the pot holes along the street. Some are covered by water and can do major damage to vehicles. The mini lakes that tend to form near curbside storm drains and man hole covers are also a great opportunity for damage to both vehicles and unfortunate pedestrians who happen to be passing/standing nearby and are hit as vehicles whiz past and create a spray of dirty water.

Our seasons tend to be short and overlap to some extent. Each has it's good points, beauty and problems. We tend to try and rush the seasons. The winter enthusiasts don't want to put away their winter duds and toys, but the spring gardeners and farmers are itching to get out and play in the dirt. Many people are dreaming of golf, baseball, bar-b-ques and other warm weather activities. We never seem content to just let the seasons be and absorb the beauty and uniqueness of each.

So, whether you love it or hate it, spring is more or less here. Please be careful driving and watch out for pot holes and pedestrians as we maneuver around the mini lake puddles. The warm weather is on the way and we just have to be patient. We should enjoy the transition of the season as much as we can, because the mosquito season is right around the corner!


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