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Record snowfalls keep city crews busy

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 24/06) - Record snowfalls in the city are pushing snow-clearing crews into overdrive - about a month earlier than usual, said Public Works director Greg Kehoe.

"We initiated snow removal (Tuesday night) which is the earliest I can remember," said Kehoe.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Contractors working for the city clear snow off Franklin Avenue on Tuesday night. Record snowfalls in the city have city crews working overtime. - Peter Crnogorac/NNSL photo

"Because of the record amounts of snow, we've had to accelerate that."

According to Environment Canada, this year Yellowknife has already seen the snowiest November on record and there are still six days left until December.

Since Nov. 1, 81 centimetres of snow has fallen on Yellowknife. That shatters the old record of 59 centimetres, set in 1988. Environment Canada has kept track of snowfalls since 1942.

"You're running about 184 per cent of normal," said meteorologist Curt Dixon with the Arctic Weather Centre in Edmonton.

Dixon said snowy weather from the west has been hanging around the Great Slave Lake area longer than normal because "blocking patterns" caused by warmer ocean temperatures have prevented the snow from moving further east.

"Everywhere from Edmonton northward to your area has been above average this winter so far," said Dixon.

Pierre LePage, owner of Le Frolic bistro, said he is having a hard time understanding why it's taking so long for the city to clear the streets.

"I thought they were on strike or something," said LePage.

"I don't think they're doing such a great job right now because all the streets are clogged up."

Kehoe said Public Works crews began clearing Franklin Avenue on Tuesday night. His department plans to concentrate on downtown streets next week.

"We've got quite a few calls concerning the amount of snow we got and the effect it's had on the roads," said Kehoe.

"We've hired contractors and the crews are putting in additional hours to try and get this worked out."

In the meantime, he wants businesses and residents to be cautious and not toss sidewalk snow into big piles on city streets where they could pose a hazard to passing vehicles.

Bill Stirling, owner of Overlander Sports, said he's trying to get his parking lot cleared but private snow removers with free time on their hands appear to be pretty scarce these days.

On Wednesday, staff at the store came to the rescue of two customers whose vehicles got stuck on the street out front.

Despite the accumulating snow at the curb, he doesn't have any complaints about the city's snow removal efforts.

"I'm sure the city is doing all they can," said Stirling.

"(The snow) is pretty crazy right now."

On the plus side, the bounty of snow outside isn't hurting ski sales at his store.

"When the snow hit the ground, the skiers really started flocking in," said Stirling.

The deluge of snow may be coming to an end, however. A cold front which appeared Wednesday seems to be sticking around - bringing freezing temperatures but little snow. With thermometers plunging to near -30C at night, it's Yellowknife's first real wave of frigid temperatures this season.

Dixon said long-term forecasts over the next three months indicate below normal temperatures to come - potentially good news for the builders of winter roads to the diamond mines.

"If our temperatures hold as they're supposed to, hopefully they'll be able to move stuff," said Dixon.