Record snowfall

Thirty centimetres a new single-day high for November

Published on November 25, 2011

Motorists trying to get to work Thursday morning in St. John’s  may have found it to be headache-inducing.

Meeting the predictions of forecasters and then tacking on a bit more of the white stuff for good measure, almost 30 centimetres of snow dropped on St. John’s by midday Thursday.

It was a new single-day record for November in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The deluge of snow closed schools, cancelled events, delayed bus service and forced drivers to proceed with caution once they were on the road after shovelling their vehicles out of snowbanks.

Between 20 and 30 centimetres of snowfall were reported in areas stretching from the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas to the Avalon Peninsula.

According to Environment Canada meteorologist Herb Thoms, the highest recorded snowfall amount was at St. John’s International Airport, which hit 29 centimetres by midday Thursday. The previous record was 25.3 centimetres on Nov. 19, 1980.

The snow started to fall at approximately 1 a.m., coming down at its heaviest two hours later, according to Environment Canada.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, snowfall was light, with temperatures fluctuating between just-above-or-below the freezing point.

In St. John’s, there were reports coming from residents expressing concerns over how quickly plows responded to Thursday morning’s weather.

City director of public works Paul Mackey told The Telegram the snow storm presented a challenge to city workers. He said heavy snowfall combined with rush-hour traffic impeded the progress of crews, adding it appeared many drivers had not yet switched to winter tires, causing them to drive slowly to avoid causing accidents.

“We had (all plows) out there, it’s just a question of not making much progress, because it was snowing heavy from about 4 a.m. to late in the morning, and that combined with the time of day and the traffic, our plows get tied up in the traffic like everybody else. You can’t get around the routes and the areas as fast.”

Mackey said crews would work overnight to deal with the record snowfall. As of the end of October, the City of St. John’s had spent approximately $660,000 above its year-to-date snow clearing budget.

“This will obviously impact the budget. This is a major storm, so there will be a significant expense,” said Mackey.

Almost every school in the Eastern School District was closed as a result of the storm, and Memorial University did not reopen until 5:30 p.m. Metrobus did not hit the roads until 1 p.m.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary responded to six accidents on Thursday between midnight and late-afternoon. Const. Talia Murphy said most drivers adjusted their speed in response to weather conditions.

Sgt. Wayne Newell  of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said there were a couple of minor accidents reported of vehicles going off the road. An 18-wheel tractor trailer also went off the road approximately 20 kilometres east of the Goobies scale house.

Aside from being a record-setting day, Thursday’s snowfall also handily beat the total accumulation for all of November and December 2010 — 19.8 centimetres. The heaviest snowfall during that stretch came on Nov. 30 when a mere 4.4 centimetres was recorded.

Thoms said the seasonal forecast as of two weeks ago called for below average temperatures and near-or-above normal precipitation amounts.

“Looking at the two combined, it would suggest a different winter than last year,” he said.

In November and December 2010, rain was the name of the game. November witnessed 85.2 millimetres of rainfall, while December was drenched by an astounding 326.9 millimetres of rain.

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TeleAndrew