Southern Alberta digs itself out after wallop of snow buries cars, blankets roads

Some people in southern and eastern Alberta are digging out Monday after a wintry wallop dumped as much as a half-metre of snow in some areas, burying vehicles and farm equipment, closing highways and shutting down many schools.

On Sunday, the strong winds and heavy snow prompted storm warnings in parts of the province that included Crowsnest Pass, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat on Sunday, prompting a slew of highway closures.

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School classes were cancelled on Monday across Lethbridge, Pincher Creek, Cardston, Medicine Hat, Fort Macleod, Taber and Brooks, while the Grassland Schools Division remained open but announced there would be no bus service.

Heather Gast, who lives south of Lethbridge about five kilometres north of Magrath, said that the snow — which began falling on her dryland grain farm on Saturday — continued until she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“It just gradually worsened and worsened over Saturday, and then all day Sunday, it was just blowing and snowing — and it just didn’t give up,” Gast said.

“The way it came in with so much wind, and the size of drifts, was just — it’s nothing like we’ve ever seen before.”

Heather Gast, pictured here, shows a snow drift dwarfing a vehicle after the storm on the weekend hit her farm just south of Lethbridge, Alta. (Submitted by Heather Gast)

Gast said she feels lucky to have Monday off because the road on her property is covered in 1½ metres of snow.

“We’re definitely going to go out on the snowmobile and see what kind of fun we can have out there.”

Gast said they couldn’t see the sky until the storm cleared up on Monday morning. (Submitted by Heather Gast)

According to Dan Kulak, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, the province’s first big winter storm hit areas east of Calgary and toward the Saskatchewan border the hardest — with as much as 50 centimetres.

And those that got it the worst have likely seen the last of warmer temperatures for a while, he said.

Gast says she plans to have fun snowmobiling in the storm’s aftermath. (Submitted by Heather Gast)

“Wherever people got 50 centimetres of snow, or something like that — that’s pretty much the beginning of winter,” Kulak said.

“[But] if you managed to escape most of it … there’s going to be some warmer weather that comes along during the year.”

Environment Canada estimated that Taylorville, in the County of Cardston, might have received the most snow in the weekend storm, with 38 centimetres, but blowing snow complicated measures. (Submitted by Lori Emery)

Kulak said it’s too soon to tell whether the snowfall broke any records, particularly because most of it fell in areas without longstanding weather stations.

According to the official weather summary from Environment Canada on Moday morning, Taylorville in Cardston County received the most, with 38 centimetres. However, Environment Canada did note that the weekend snowfall measurements were complicated because of blowing snow.

The cities didn’t dodge the flurries, either — as you can see from this photo of a car buried in Lethbridge on Sunday that Rebecca Costello posted.