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Heavy, wet snow continues until the weekend, creating travel and traction issues

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As expected, there was a rapid deterioration in weather conditions with persistent precipitation in central and southern Alberta.

Snow started in the Calgary area Tuesday evening and will continue for days.

This long-duration snowfall event prompted Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to issue and expand snowfall warnings on Tuesday as “10 to 30 cm of snow is expected by Friday morning across southern Alberta.”

The national weather agency explains most areas under the warning will receive between 10 to 15 centimetres of snow, but some regions will see totals much higher than that.

Weather advisories from ECCC on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 include a snowfall warning (white), a special weather statement (pink) and air quality advisories (grey).

Some communities in the Calgary area started Tuesday with slushy and icy conditions as well as snow.

Warmer temperatures closer to the surface, combined with an atmospheric profile containing a large region of dendritic growth (snow growth) allowed precipitation to partially melt before landing on a warmer surface.

Due to a robust source of moisture and the enhancement of upsloping, many roads and highways early in the day were slippery due to a layer of ice under the snow.

  • READ MORE: Calgary under snowfall warning, drivers warned to take precautions

Travel is expected to remain challenging Wednesday, with ECCC advising “Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow.”

As of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, 511 Alberta was displaying icy and snow-covered conditions across central and southern Alberta, as well as reporting multiple incidents.

Sidewalks, parking lots and pathways are also likely to offer poor traction and snow removal has the potential to be dangerous. Spring snow is often more heavy and wet, and shovelling that type of snow can be more taxing on the heart.

Colder air will continue to funnel into Alberta over the next two days with the base of the trough situated near the southern border of the western Prairies.

The counter-clockwise circulation associated with that low is creating isentropic lift against the Rockies or more simply – the system is stalling out and producing persistent precipitation on the eastern side of the mountains.

Easterly winds at the surface will hover around 15 to 20 kilometres for most of the day Wednesday, making temperatures feel colder than they are, but also affecting visibility where there is fresh and/or falling snow.

This setup is expected to remain in place until at least Friday – but it will take a little more time before the temperature improves.

Daytime highs in Calgary over the weekend are expected to match the average overnight low of -8 C, and that lack of heat and cloud cover will limit the amount of melting in the short term.

For the latest weather advisories from ECCC click here., and click here for the current Alberta road condition from 511 Alberta. Drive BC highway conditions can be found here.

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