Wild weather week puts plans on hold
By Sue Tiffin
Published Feb. 19, 2019
A Family Day weekend with moderate temperatures, no winter weather warnings, blue skies and what has been identified as being sunshine brought residents out of their homes and kept businesses busy after intense winter weather caused cancellations, closures and delays just the week before.
Scott Moore, a widely-followed amateur meteorologist in Minden who tracks storms and posts daily weather reports online that are specific to this area reported forecasts during last week’s messy conditions.
“In comparison to last year, the 2.5 to three feet of snow that we got over the last seven days was huge,” he said. “Winds have certainly been a factor this year compared to last, and the systems that have been in play this year were skirting below us and through the bottom of the province. We seemed to have some colder overnight temps last year, but our wind chills have more than made up for it.”
Moore said that because ice coverage on the Great Lakes is marginally lower this year compared to last, a few more lake effect snow squalls have been recorded.
“The track of many of the systems hitting the province have veered more north than the usual patterns for this time of year which has brought us a lot more mixing of snow and rain or freezing rain.”
Paul Walker at Home Hardware in Haliburton said that during the worst of the weather last week, customers were coming in for “winter needs,” that included salt, sand and shovels, but also that business was down due to slippery road conditions and people just staying home.
“Mother Nature ain’t doing us any favours, let’s put it that way,” he said, noting that Family Day weekend was significantly busier than business over the past week.
Despite the freezing rain and dumps of snow that wreaked havoc on the road conditions, Marty Grant of Hyland Taxi said business wasn’t necessarily up.
“There hasn’t been any mass explosion of extra customers because their cars wouldn’t start or they couldn’t get out of their driveway,” he said. “There’s been a couple but I get that all the time.”
Grant’s fleet is equipped with snow tires, but he tells drivers to avoid pulling into driveways that are snow-covered due to the potential for hidden ice.
The weather over the past week resulted in fewer customers going out, he said.
“I think over the last couple of days, people have stayed in more than usual, but that’s because it was a really bad, bad couple of days,” he said. “Of course the Tuesday night where it was so snowy, everything closed down early. And it was really dead, like the phone didn’t ring from 7 o’clock at night until 10 to 12. Then the next day, Wednesday, it was slower because of course nobody was going out because of the amount of snow, they hadn’t cleaned out the streets or anything either.”
He recommends that people do stay in when weather results in bad road conditions.
“If they don’t have to go out in winter like we had over the last couple of days, they shouldn’t,” he said. “Even with snow tires, it’s hard to get around. Wait until a better day, because part of the problem too is that up until yesterday you couldn’t even get onto the sidewalk from the road because the snow was banked up so high. You only had a couple of spots along the main street that you could even get from the road onto the sidewalk. The major portion of my customers are seniors, and they shouldn’t be coming out in this.”
Public school students in the area have had eight snow days so far, more than the seven snow days recorded in the entire 2017-2018 school year, but so far less than the 12 inclement weather days from the 2016-2017 year. The average number of inclement weather days for Trillium Lakelands District School Board for the past six years has been about seven, although in the 2014-2015 year, only one day is recorded.
“Every year there are different challenges due to varying weather patterns,” said Catherine Shedden, district manager of corporate communications, TLDSB. “At this point we would not say we are seeing anything unusual compared to the variations in weather over the past several years.”
Although one inclement weather day this year was announced the evening prior to the next day’s bus cancellation, generally school bus cancellations or school closures are called at around 6:30 a.m.
“We are prepared each year and have a process in place to determine cancellations,” said Shedden.
“It is not an easy decision and discussions take place very early in the morning. Transportation Services staff review weather alerts, co-ordinate with bus operators, and review surrounding school boards prior to making a decision.”
Gone are the days when families had to rely only on radio or television announcements for bus cancellations and school closures.
“The variety of communication channels where cancellation information is shared has certainly changed over the years,” said Shedden. “At one time it was an email to all staff and information shared with local radio stations and other media. Now we share information with staff, send information to local media, post on mybustoschool.ca, update the board website, update the board intranet, and share on Twitter and Facebook. A sign of the times!”
During bus cancellation days, schools remain open.
“TLDSB staff are expected to make their best effort to get to their place of work or to the closest building to their home,” said Shedden. “There is a grace period given for those who might need more time to clear out their driveway, etc. We ask staff to communicate with their supervisor and each situation is reviewed on an individual basis.
“Our schools are open on inclement weather days and continue to be places of learning for those who come to the school. It is important that staff are there to be available to these students. However, if weather worsens throughout a bus cancellation day, staff who have travelled a distance to the school are given the opportunity to head home early. We ensure there is adequate staff at the school to supervise attending students.”
Throughout the county, clients who rely on home support workers and vulnerable clients using Haliburton Highlands Health Services’ Community Support Services saw additional safety and emergency preparedness checks over the past nasty weather spell.
“Typically it is the cold that prompts checks – ensuring heat is sufficient,” said Stephanie MacLaren, vice-president, community programs, HHHS Community Support Services. “And also that clients have enough food and water on hand in case they are unable to get any due to ongoing weather issues.”
Volunteer drivers and Community Support Services van drivers continued to brave the roads, according to MacLaren.
“While many appointments have been rescheduled with the winter weather – some, such as dialysis, are not easily rebooked,” she said, noting the team was able to get most clients to required appointments. “Our drivers are unbelievably committed to ensuring clients get where they need to go. We even had two drivers get clients to cancer treatments in the height of the storm this week – it is really remarkable – they are such a gift to our community.”
Meals on Wheels services were cancelled one day due to road conditions and delivered in a double run the next day.
Chris Bishop at Sir Sam’s Ski & Bike said that the resort is seeing its best year, despite what he said was “crazy weather,” with seven rains since Nov. 10 compared to four or five in years past, and big amounts of snow recently.
“In the last, less than two weeks, we’ve had almost three feet of snow, so that’s great for business but too much snow is not good for business,” he said, explaining that the hills might be in great condition, but if people aren’t travelling much due to road conditions, or if school buses from other areas won’t travel to the area due to local bus cancellations, the resort will see reduced usage.
“We’ve been doing it for 53 years, so yeah, weather can be ... too much snow is not a good thing but at the end of the day it makes for great skiing, but if people can’t get here it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it?”
Snow at the beginning of the week works well for the resort.
“Snow is a great thing, just depending on what day it comes,” he said. “For us, when we’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays, it’s perfect if it snows Monday and Tuesday, because then we can have time to get it all in good shape, and have everything open and running.”
Inconsistent weather causing great weather on one day and poor weather the next has been tricky for outdoor enthusiasts, and Bishop said some people can be scared off by frostbite warnings, although the resort has seen zero incidence of any frostbite this year and with proper winter clothing and indoor breaks throughout the day it isn’t much of a concern.
“We don’t really have control of our business, the weather controls our business,” he said. “We can do everything we can do to be ready and then when the weather isn’t conducive to what brings people out it might not be too busy ... Mother Nature’s in charge.”
Bouts of major winter weather aren’t quite done yet, according to weather trackers.
Looking forward, Moore said much of the rest of the month looks, “reasonably snow free,” but he did warn of one system that he said could, “play havoc with us this week with five to 10 centimetres.”