1 year Later: Remembering the Historic October 2019 Manitoba Snowstorm

Story by Lance Quackenbush

Edited by Francis Lavigne-Theriault


An early blast of cold temperatures and snow blanketed Manitoba a year ago today, which lead to a historic snowstorm, extensive damage and massive clean up costs across the province of Manitoba.

Surface analysis 21Z (4pm CDT) Fri Oct 11 2019

A strong cold front moved through the province on the evening of Tuesday October 8th, dropping temperatures from the mid teens in Winnipeg to the freezing mark by Wednesday evening 24 hours later. Rain showers changed to flurries and eventually heavy wet snow as a strong high circulated in cold air and a Colorado low moved through the Dakotas and into Minnesota. The low intensified over Minnesota on October 10th, and stalled out along the International Border for several days, cycling in abundant moisture, which combined with strong winds, smothered trees, homes, businesses and power lines with snow between the 10th and 12th.


Roads became impassable, and closures numerous, when as much as 70 centimeters of wet snow fell on some locales over the three-day period while the mercury hovered near the freezing mark. The snow was also blown around by 80km/h or greater wind gusts, creating blizzard type conditions.


Reported snowfall totals (in inches) by October 12, 2019 by the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, ND

In addition, with it being early in the fall, most trees had still not dropped their leaves yet, which caused limbs, and large tree branches and whole trees to come crashing to the ground onto power lines and property. Tens of thousands of trees were lost, while causing significant damage to the region, and the largest power outage in Manitoba’s history. Almost 250,000 lost power at the storm’s peak, where in some cases large hydro transmission towers collapsed (Environment Canada, 2020). Some rural areas lost power and did not have it restored for several days to weeks. Frigidly cold temperatures also occurred across Saskatchewan and Alberta to the west, where overnight lows plunged below -5 and as low as -10 in some regions.


Areas in red above show closed roads on October 11, 2019 across Manitoba. Roads include the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg to Brandon on October 11, 2019.

A state of emergency was declared in eleven Manitoba communities. The city of Winnipeg alone reported 9 million dollars in damages related to the clean up from the storm (Dacey, 2019), after 34 cm of snow fell, which caused the city to run a deficit for the 2019 calendar year. Many Manitoba hydro workers who were restoring power said that they had never seen a storm like this before, with some people unable to return to their homes for over a month in the hardest hit regions.

53 456 customers are still without power as of 10:31pm CDT according to Manitoba Hydro on October 11, 2019.

It was the heaviest October snowfall ever recorded for Winnipeg, with records going back to 1872, and clearly will be remembered for a long time to come.



References

Dacey, E. (2019, November 28). October snowstorm clean-up now pegged at $9 M; Winnipeg projects $9.2 M deficit. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/6228706/october-snowstorm-clean-up-now-pegged-at-9-m-winnipeg-projects-9-2-m-deficit/

Environment Canada (2020, January 08). Canada’s top 10 weather stories of 2019. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/top-ten-weather-stories/2019.html