Jasperites woke up to the white stuff coming down hard on Monday as a freak snowstorm created an unusual start to the week of the Summer Solstice.
Beginning overnight, as much as 40 cm of snow started falling throughout Jasper National Park, creating a flake of bemusement and an avalanche of frustration for drivers, campers, the RCMP Musical Ride team and everyone else.
“We had a developing low-pressure system on Sunday over the central portion of the province. That was associated with a lot of cold air aloft flooding into the province, helping create these quite heavy showers over west-central portions of the province in Yellowhead County, including Jasper and especially the Grande Cache area, and the Hinton area all the way to the B.C. border,” said Sara Hoffman, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
While it lasted, it created havoc all around. It delayed the opening of Cavell Road and caused the temporary closure of Miette Hot Springs.
Two tour buses that tried to drive up Maligne Lake Road where a little more than a metre of snow had landed. They got stuck somewhere near Medicine Lake, so Parks Canada sent a plough up to clear the path so that the roughly 40 passengers could be transferred back down. The plough then went farther up, or at least it tried to before it got itself stuck.
“They’ll have stories to tell when they get home, that’s for sure. It sounds like one bus was a load of primarily German tourists. It’d be a bit of an adventure for them; they didn’t get to see Maligne Lake but had a mountain adventure nonetheless,” said Dave Argument, resource conservation manager with Parks Canada.
Parks Canada had its own trail crew up on Skyline. They had a tough day, Argument said, but not because of their assigned tasks. They didn’t accomplish much, if any, trail maintenance. Rather, they spent a good portion of the day hiking back down.
Two groups of six campers, one at Tekarra Campground and the other at Fisherman’s Bay, also required assistance after their tents collapsed due to the wet, heavy snow overnight. Suffering from the sudden cold, they called for help. That help came in the form of a boat for one group and a helicopter for the other.
“This is just a case in point for why it’s important to make sure you’re carrying emergency communications equipment. That’s key,” Argument said.
He added that this weather event effectively demonstrated why everyone must prepare for all possibilities when they come to Jasper for recreation. He suggested that people also make sure that somebody else knows your trip plan.
The unseasonal snow load also brought down an unusually high number of trees and tree branches throughout the national park and the municipality itself. Parks Canada sent out chainsaw crews to remove the deadfall from roads and improve access on trails.
The town’s Operations Department had its own crews out clearing downed trees from public sidewalks and streets. It was working with ATCO and Parks Canada to address hazards and deal with trees that had fallen on power lines.
The snow then turned into rain around noon Monday, leaving Canada’s weather agency to have both a snowfall warning and a rainfall warning for Jasper on the same day. Snowfall warnings were also in effect for Highway 93 from Jasper to Saskatchewan River Crossing and then on to Lake Louise as well.
The Jasper Warden Office Station reportedly received 81 mm of rain by early afternoon on Monday.
The rain accumulated so much in Edson that the town had to declare a state of local emergency due to the flooding only days after its residents returned from their evacuation orders. Going north toward Grande Cache, a mudslide on Highway 60 caused major traffic disruptions.
By Wednesday, the weather started to return to more seasonal temperatures as the actual Summer Solstice arrived. The weekend should see the thermometer in the low-to-mid-20 C range.
“It looks like a nice, very typical June weekend for the Jasper area. Maybe a chance of some scattered showers but certainly nothing like what we’re experiencing now,” Hoffman said.
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 19, 2023