A fairly quick melt Snowbanks to turn to water as warm weather arrives

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Cars remained parked in the snow route on 8th avenue N.W. after a snow route park ban came into effect on Monday morning February 5, 2018.

(ABC TODAY) After a snowier winter than usual, the big melt is finally on the way.

The city is bracing for its piles of snowbanks to rapidly turn to water this weekend as temperatures steadily climb above the freezing mark. By next week, temperatures could reach upwards of 16 C on Monday and Tuesday.

Due to the number of snowstorms this winter in southern Alberta, accumulation in the region could translate to between 70 and 90 millimetres of groundwater, about two to three times the norm.

“It’s going to be a fairly quick melt,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Brian Proctor. “It’s going to be a fairly significant event, especially for residents of Calgary, residents of the southern Alberta area along the foothills that have seen so much snow in the last six weeks, (who) are going to see a real problem, I would suggest.”

Proctor said temperatures would likely remain above zero overnight from Sunday to Tuesday, which will further exacerbate the water accumulation.

“Then the problem becomes one of where does all that water go? That’s really what the city has to deal with, and how they choose to deal with frozen storm sewers and things of that nature that have frozen over the winter,” he said. “We haven’t seen a whole lot of chinooks getting into Calgary this winter. The problem’s going to be standing water and where that water goes and how fast the storm sewer system can take it up.”

Corey Colbran, manager of wastewater and stormwater collection for the City of Calgary, said city crews were being proactive this week in identifying priority, low-lying areas where the melt could pose an issue.

He said it’s important that residents clear the snow off storm drains near their homes so that they are visible, as the city is concerned about water pooling near snow-covered drains.

“Our big call to action right now is actually to get the public’s help and support,” said Colbran. “Really, just have a look if the catch basin, if you can find it, dig it out and make sure that the grate is at least visible. That way it just allows for that free-flowing water so that things are free when the melt does come.”

Should water pooling become an issue, residents should wait 90 minutes to see if the drain clears on its own before contacting 311.

The city is also reminding residents to shovel snow away from the foundation of their homes and window wells to prevent seepage into basements, and to ensure eavestroughs are clear and pointed away from their houses. If snow is being moved or piled, residents should check their furnace and exhaust vents to make sure snow and ice are not blocking them, to prevent buildup of carbon monoxide.

But unlike short-duration, high-intensity summer thunderstorms, Colbran said extensive flooding across the city is unlikely.

The unprecedented levels of snow accumulation across the city this winter has caused headaches for many in residential neighbourhoods who say better snow plowing is needed.

“It has been a unique year just because we haven’t had any real extended periods of chinook weather,” said Colbran. “We’ve had a day here or a day there but it hasn’t really been that extended period where it would have allowed some slower melting of the snow. We just have quite a bit of snowpack across the city and with now what looks like an extended period of chinook weather, there is going to be a lot of melting.”