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Saskatoon digs out after winter storm

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With less than a month until the official start of spring, Saskatoon residents are digging out after a heavy winter storm that swept across much of west-central Saskatchewan.

The city received around 17 centimetres in the last 24 hours, but high winds made the drifts difficult for drivers.

“We had wind gusts at 80 kilometres per hour at the airport,” said Terri Lang, meteorologist with Environment Canada. “And when you combine falling snow and wind gusts to 80 kilometres per hour, that makes for whiteout conditions that also make for big drifts as well.”

Residents in communities on the outskirts of the city battled heavy snow accumulation on certain streets, leaving multiple vehicles stranded in the road.

School bus service was cancelled for the afternoon at Sylvia Fedoruk School, and City of Saskatoon garbage collection was delayed in some neighbourhoods due to the snow.

The city says it has been working through the night to clear major roadways and top-priority streets, including sidewalks near public buildings. Due to the increased drifts, they have mobilized additional resources including 30 graders, 12 plows and 10 sanders.

The province says highway travel is not recommended in areas including Saskatoon, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Meadow Lake and La Ronge due to icy or slippery sections, reduced visibility and snow drifts.

“We see some areas that are completely scoured clean and other areas where you can’t get a car through because there’s such a big drift,” said Lang. “So that’s what the winds do to the snow.”

The wind does something else to the snow too. Lang says it can affect the shape of the snowflakes, making it easier to pile up in drifts.

“Those dendrites that we're so used to, that snowflake pattern,” she said. “What happens when it blows, it wears off the edges of the snowflakes and they become more like balls. But when it's been blown like that, it gets harder packed because all the nice edges that keep everything in, the air in the snow packs is gone.”

Lang says most Saskatchewan residents are likely happy to see the snow, as it’s been an especially dry winter in the centre of the province.

“I think everyone’s sort of excited to see it,” she said. “We haven’t had any of it this winter, that’s sort of what’s interesting about it. It’s the lack of storms we’ve had this winter.”

Residents may be less excited about the bone-chilling temperatures that the storm has brought, including temperatures colder than minus 30 C with the windchill over the next few nights.

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