Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Photo Submitted

TRAVEL PUT ON ICE – After steady rain Tuesday night, an ice-covered Alaska Highway was shut down north and south of Teslin. This photo was taken Wednesday morning, at the driveway to the Timberpoint Campground in Teslin. Photo by MINNIE CLARK

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

TREACHEROUS GOING – First, a record snowfall, then above-average temperatures to melt some away, and now icy sidewalks to navigate in Whitehorse. Thank goodness 2020 is almost over! Or is it just the start of a continuing series?

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Photo by Photo Submitted

DOUBLE WHAMMY – The community of Haines Junction was hit with a heavy and wet snowfall earlier this week, and then came the above-average temperatures that turned sidestreets into skating rinks. Photo courtesy of LEAH ROBINSON

Weird week will go down in weather history

It was a whacky week of weather for the Yukon and beyond.

By Chuck Tobin on December 4, 2020

It was a whacky week of weather for the Yukon and beyond.

Several temperature and precipitation records were broken – if not smashed.

Highways were closed because of black ice.

Whitehorse was left dealing with excessive water in the streets because of wet snow and rain, accompanied by record-high temperatures.

Haines Junction was left digging out from more than 30 centimetres – some say a lot more – of snow before the freezing rain turned their streets into skating rinks.

Cellphone service to the community was disrupted because of the impact the weather had on the microwave tower overlooking Pine Lake.

Haines, Alaska was hit with tragedy by landslides that destroyed homes and left two people missing (see coverage on pages 6, 15). The excessive rainfall tore open the streets, making many impassible.

Juneau saw 200 millimetres of rain, Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said Thursday.

While most highways have reopened, the South Klondike Highway remains closed from Carcross to Skagway because of avalanches that have left metres of snow to be cleared. It’s expected to remain closed for the next couple of days.

Castellan explained the unusual weather was brought into the Yukon and the Alaska panhandle by an “atmospheric river” moving north from the tropics, bringing excessive amounts of moisture and warmth.

The amount of wet snow and rain that fell in Whitehorse on Tuesday and Wednesday was in record territory, he explained. To have two days of that amount of precipitation back-to-back is almost unheard of, he said.

Castellan said December sees about 16 millimetres of precipitation on average.

In just two days this week, he said, more than nine millimetres fell, or more than half the average for the whole month.

“It’s very rare,” he said.

Castellan said many of the temperature records were literally blown out of the water.

The Whitehorse temperature of 4.8 C edged past the previous record of 4.6 set on 2004, he said.

But the temperature of 7.7 C on Wednesday in Watson Lake blew past the previous record of 3.9 C set in 1963.

Teslin hit 8.1 C, easily surpassing the previous record of five C, also established in 1963.

The 8.4 C seen in Faro eclipsed the record of 1.1 set in 1969.

Several other temperature records were set right across the territory, Castellan said.

He said the high for Dawson City on Wednesday hit 4.4, for instance, surpassing by six degrees the previous recored of -4.4 established 40 years ago.

Teslin Mayor Gord Curran said while the Alaska Highway running through the community was in good shape, the highway was closed for a time because of ice in both directions, while transport trucks waited in Teslin for the highway to reopen.

The sidestreets, said Curran, were ice, though the community’s road crew was doing what it could to keep them sanded.

The mayor said Teslin didn’t get the heavy snow other communities got.

Dan Rodin, the chief administrative officer for Haines Junction, said Thursday the community received a double whammy – hit first by an unusually high snowfall followed by the warming temperatures.

The village road crew put in long hours clearing snow, he said, adding the arena supervisor even got his ATV out and put on a plow to assist.

Rodin said today the effort was to be focused on grading the community streets to break up the ice in advance of sanding efforts.

The Alaska Highway was also closed for a couple of days heading into and out of Haines Junction, where there were also transport trucks backed up.

The Haines Road remains closed, which is another blow to Haines, Alaska and what it’s already dealing with, Rodin said.

“We feel for them,” he said, adding there is a special relationship between the two communities.

Andrew Anderson, Northwestel Inc.’s director of communications, said this morning the disruption to the network began Tuesday evening but was corrected by 5 p.m. Thursday.

Comments (10)

Up 4 Down 1

Atom on Dec 9, 2020 at 8:24 pm

@Pierre I feel ya. There is not a place in Canada that has a worse snow removal program than Whitehorse.
There's not a lot of investment in equipment or contracting for that purpose and we live in and around snow from October to April.
But I wasn't born here so what would I know. I've just had to live with it for the past 20 years.

Up 10 Down 11

BnR on Dec 7, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Really iBrian? Regularly means the last 2 winters?
And JC, the earth going though its "correction cycle"? Please share with us your "correction cycle" hypothesis.

Up 14 Down 27

JC on Dec 6, 2020 at 8:00 pm

Just the earth going through its regular correction cycle. But it's fun hearing all those liberals panicking over what they call "climate change". Driving themselves into a frenzy over all the fake news. Yeah, great fun. Bring it on Greta. The lefty world needs your great teenage wisdom.

Up 20 Down 3

pierre on Dec 6, 2020 at 7:54 pm

I think it's time for the city to call in local contractors. My street has not been touched for six weeks. One lane traffic. Also what's with parking on the street and leaving vehicle there, isn't that a bylaw? COW can spend millions on new buildings and the like but seem to under budget snow clearing...baffling.

Up 31 Down 8

Sheepchaser on Dec 5, 2020 at 3:35 pm

A huge thank you to public works, private sector contractors and highways staff who are working to keep the roads passable. You all are doing a lot with less and the driving public appreciates it!

Up 27 Down 7

iBrian on Dec 5, 2020 at 12:59 pm

We got this regularly, last winter and the winter before we had these warm fronts move in. It’s not new. It’s regular, not sure why people can’t remember that far back.

Up 24 Down 1

Dave on Dec 5, 2020 at 9:26 am

Cool picture. Christmas Day of 1985 I remember a steady drizzling rain was coming down out in the bush north of Teslin. It didn’t feel very much like a Yukon Christmas at the time.

Up 20 Down 2

Greiko on Dec 5, 2020 at 8:43 am

Ya dido was in Watson Lake circa 1998 Xmas - was plus 5 for 5 days, slush, rain, etc. Very similar to the two days here.

Up 14 Down 37

Jimbo on Dec 4, 2020 at 10:16 pm

Finally, can global warming hurry up already let’s warm up this frozen wasteland, hopefully one day we can see +20 to +30 in December/January!!

Up 29 Down 4

Wilf Carter on Dec 4, 2020 at 3:32 pm

In 1993 we had some of the same weather and we lived in Teslin. Great job Miini and Jim. Great people of Teslin - thanks

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