Snow storm? S'no problem         

City learned lesson in December

February 2, 2011

It was a “skimmer and a slammer,” said experts about London’s Wednesday morning winter storm.

Despite dire predictions, the city of London received 15 cm of snow overnight – less than the expected 20 to 30 cm. Environment Canada lifted its blizzard warning for the area Wednesday morning.

Most of the snow fell between midnight and 4 a.m., so the worst had passed by the time the majority people were getting up, said Geoff Coulson, meteorologist for Environment Canada.

“It was a fortunate situation for a lot of folks in London,” he said.

Coulson said the timing of the storm helped prevent major issues, but the city was prepared to deal with an onslaught of winter weather, said Dave O’Brien, division manager for London’s corporate security and emergency management.

“Everything we were hearing last night was that this was going to be a horrible storm. We prepared for two days for this storm, because it was going to potentially be that bad,” he said, adding that the city did well in getting early notification out to people, he added.

O’Brien said the city of London, which has spent over $1-million dealing with snow conditions this winter, learned some lessons from December’s Snowmaggedon.

“We always learn – every time we have an event. The earlier we get going in our process, the better off we are in serving the community.”

But he said that catching a break shouldn’t be interpreted as over-preparing, because usually “at the end of the day, if you don’t prepare earlier and you don’t make those calls early, it’s worse.”

Other local officials also prepared for the worst.

London Police had extra officers out patrolling the streets and monitoring road conditions Wednesday, said communications officer Const. Dennis Rivest.

“We’re ready if things take a turn,” he said.

And Thames Valley District School Board and London District Catholic School Board made the decision Tuesday night to keep schools closed Wednesday, which meant parents had to find alternate arrangements for their children.

 

There are 70,000 students in TVDSB alone, so it would be challenging for the board to arrange accommodations for students whose parents work during school hours, said Kate Young, public affairs and community relations manager for TVDSB.

Instead, parents are advised to have backup plans in place for situations like this, she said.

Three women take shelter from storm at coffee house

 Going to work

 Misconceptions of homelessness and weather

However, no special preparations were needed at a local homeless shelter.

There was no substantial rise in occupancy during the storm, as 26 of its 146 beds remained free, said Gordon Russell, director of Men’s Mission and Rehabilitation Centre.

“The reality is there are homeless 365 days of the year,” he said, adding that it was a misconception that homeless shelters would suddenly “burst at the seams” because of a severe winter storm watch.

But even if there had been a rise, the centre would have found a spot for everyone.

“It doesn’t really matter if it’s the dead of winter or the dead of summer, we’re going to accommodate you if you’re homeless. We will not refer you to the street, whether we’re at capacity or over-capacity.”

Although London was lucky this time, people should always be prepared in case of emergency winter weather, said Dave Colvin, manager of emergency management for the city.

He suggested that everyone keep stock of their food, water and other necessary supplies.

“What do you have around the house if you were there for three days and couldn’t get out to the grocery store?” he said.

He also reminded residents to lend a hand to seniors.

“Maybe grab a shovel and go knocking on doors. Make sure they’re okay and that their sidewalks are shoveled,” Colvin said.

Light snowfall continued Wednesday and was expected to stop in the evening.

Londoners will experience sunshine and lower-than-normal temperatures until Sunday, when more snowfall is expected.

ABOVE: With the 15 cm of snow that fell overnight Wednesday, London's total snowfall this season already surpasses that of four recent winters.

 

Watch? Warning? What's the difference?

Environment Canada’s weather alerts are a common occurrence during every Canadian winter, but what do they actually mean? Environment Canada will issue weather alerts for a range of reasons. Here are a few winter examples:

Winter Storm Watch

The weather conditions are right for potential hazardous weather, which could include a blizzard or a significant snowfall.

Winter Storm Warning

When severe weather is expected. Could be a major snowfall, high winds, freezing rain or even an extreme wind chill. But once blizzard conditions move in, a blizzard warning is issued.

Blizzard Warning

The weather officially gets a blizzard warning when winds are 40 km per hour or higher and expected to cause reductions in visibility to 400 metres or less. The reduction can be caused by blowing snow, or a combination of blowing snow and falling snow, and conditions have to last for at least four hours.

Snow Squall Warning

Snow squall warnings are issued when there is a brief period of poor visibility caused by falling or blowing snow. Squalls last for less than an hour and result in poor visibility. They are expected to occur with the passage of a cold front.

Wind Chill Warning

When it’s so cold that exposed skin is susceptible to frostbit. The temperature needs to feel like minus 30 C in southwestern Ontario for the wind-chill warning to be issued.

Information gathered from Environment Canada’s website.

 

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