It was certainly a white Christmas, perhaps whiter than anyone in Whitehorse would have predicted.
Almost double the normal amount of snow fell on the city in the month of December, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist.
“Normally we get about 26 centimetres of snow in the month of December. This year we had about 55 cm of snow, more than twice the normal amount that we’d get,” Lundquist said.
With that much white stuff on the ground, many people may be wondering if we’ve hit some sort of record.
Likely not, Lundquist said.
“In 1980 there was 69 cm of snow on the ground in Whitehorse, so I’m thinking it’s probably not a record, but without the Nav Canada daily information I can’t be certain,” he said.
Nav Canada runs Canada’s civil air navigation system. It used to measure actual snowfall in Whitehorse, but no longer maintains sampling stations here. Instead, Lundquist relies on Environment Canada precipitation measurements, which calculate the total amount of water that falls either as snow or rain.
“The big point is that we’ve had more than twice the normal amount of snowfall. If we look at straight precipitation, as in melted rain and snow, we normally get 16 mm of precipitation in the month of December. We’ve already had 54, so way wetter, so to speak, than normal,” he said.
Walk down any sidewalk in town today and you’ll see snowbanks piling well over your average toddler’s head. For most people, it’s a curiosity or a mild frustration, but for some people, this much snow can mean the loss of independence.
“It’s difficult to get around, but it’s sort of unusual to have this much snow as well. I think that maybe people sometimes don’t realize the impact this kind of snow has,” said Lisa Rawlings Bird, the executive director of the Yukon Council on DisABILITY.
“People clearing their sidewalks, I don’t think they realize how this impacts people with disabilities. Some people who have mobility challenges just can’t get around. That’s just one of the realities here, unfortunately,” she said.
Rawlings Bird said one of the biggest problems is that when people shovel the sidewalks outside their homes or businesses, they often have nowhere to push the snow and it ends up clogging wheelchair ramps and creating impassible walls separating people from where they need to go.
“It’s a danger issue for everyone, not just people with disabilities. But then again, where do you put the snow? Maybe there needs to be some education about piling snow in certain places. I’ve seen it piled in the handicapped ramp, for instance,” she said.
Piling snow in handicapped ramps, or on any public property, could land you up to $300 in fines, according to Clive Sparks, the city’s acting director of infrastructure.
City bylaw states that commercial areas, business owners with sidewalks, have until 11 a.m. the day after a snowfall to clear their part of the pathway, Sparks said.
Homeowners in residential areas have 48 hours to get their walkways clear. If you violate the rules, the city could slap you with up to three $100 tickets, but most people just get a warning the first time, he said.
Sparks said that city crews have been working heavy hours trying to deal with all the snow that’s fallen since Christmas – nearly 20 cm – with workers on the roads 18 to 20 hours a day.
The city has a series of priorities guiding which roads get cleared first, and how frequently. Emergency routes and major roadways like 2nd Ave. and the highway take precedence over residential and side streets.
The weekend is expected to give a bit of a reprieve for shovellers and pedestrians alike, with no snow expected until Sunday or Monday.
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