Thursday, October 04, 2012

Early season snowstorm slams southeast Manitoba

Heavy snow and downed trees
made roads nearly impassable
near Vassar, MB - Oct 4 2012
A powerful early season snowstorm slammed southern Manitoba Thursday Oct 4th bringing significant snowfall to southeastern parts of the province. Rain from the system changed to snow early Thursday and continued through the day, with accumulations of 10-30 cm reported over the Steinbach, Whiteshell, Sprague and Bissett regions. Snow was mixed with rain further west over the Red river valley with a slushy coating of snow in Winnipeg by afternoon.  Strong northerly winds gusting to 60 or 70 km/h accompanied the storm, which combined with the heavy wet snow resulted in tree damage and power outages over much of SE Manitoba, with numerous hydro poles and hydro lines downed.  Road conditions over southeastern MB were poor due to the heavy snow and poor visibility, with travel not advised from Steinbach to the Ontario border. (see some impressive snowfall photos from Steinbach Online photo gallery showing extent of snow over southeast Manitoba) 

Snowfall totals from the storm included..

Satellite image Oct 6 2012 showing
extent of snowcover over SE MB.
Note also bands of lake effect snow
off Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba
which set up Friday behind storm.

Sandilands ............. 30 cm (trees down)
Hadashville ............ 30 cm (see photo)
Woodridge ............. 30 cm (see photo)
La Broquerie .......... 27 cm
Falcon Lake............ 25-30 cm (est) 
Vita ........................ 25 cm
Pinawa ................... 20-30 cm
Bissett .................... 20 cm
South Junction ........ 20-30 cm  /nr Sprague/
Steinbach ...............  8 cm

Up to a foot of snow fell over parts
of  SE Manitoba Oct 4 2012.
The early snowfall, although an inconvenience, brought some much needed moisture to the region, which has been exceptionally dry over the past 6 weeks.  The snowfall brought relief to firefighting efforts in the Vita area, which had been evacuated just two days earlier by windswept wildfires.  In Winnipeg, about 8 mm of rain and wet snow was recorded at Winnipeg airport by evening, with 10-20 mm of precipitation reported across the city (19 mm at the Forks and 18 mm at my site in Charleswood)

Early Snowfalls over Winnipeg and southern MB

Snowfalls this early are unusual, but not unprecedented.  Winnipeg has seen measurable snow as early as Sept 20th when 1.5 cm was recorded in 1945. On Oct 2 1950, Winnipeg reported 12.7 cm of snow, while 13.8 cm of snow was recorded during a wintery blast on Oct 7-8, 1985. Heavier snowfalls have been recorded elsewhere over southern Manitoba during early October and September, especially over the higher elevations of SW Manitoba. Most recently, a record early snowstorm on Oct 5 2005 dumped 20-45 cm of snow over southwest MB, heaviest around the Pilot Mound area. October 1959 saw 3 major snowstorms dump over 100 cm of snow over SW Manitoba, in what was the snowiest month on record in Brandon. One of the earliest snowstorms ever recorded in southern MB occurred on Sept 12-13 1903, when 10-30 cm of snow fell over higher elevations of western MB near the SK border. 

Early season snowfalls in Winnipeg (since 1872)

Sep 20 1945 * ......  1.5 cm   (see note below)
Sep 24 1984 ........  5.8 cm
Sep 25 1872 ........ 18.3 cm
Sep 29 1908 ........  5.1 cm
Oct  1 1996 .......... 4.0 cm
Oct 2 1950 .......... 12.7 cm
Oct 4 1952 ........... 8.6 cm
Oct 5 1876 ........... 11.4 cm
Oct 5 2005 ............  7.0 cm 
Oct 7-8 1985 ......... 13.8 cm

* Officially, the date of this earliest snowfall is listed in the climate archives as September 19th 1945.  However, the snow actually fell in the pre-dawn hours of Sept 20 1945 from 4:20 am to "breakfast time" according to the Winnipeg Tribune. Prior to July 1961, precipitation that fell before 630 am was included in the previous day's precipitation total. 


  1. That Oct 5 2005 snowstorm followed a pattern remarkably similar to this year. September 2005 ended on a summery note with highs of 27-30C, followed by 20C highs the first two days of October. Colder weather followed by the 3rd, with the snowstorm on the 5th, with rain changing to wet snow in Winnipeg giving about 5-10 cm to the city. In that event however it was SW Manitoba that got slammed the hardest, not SE MB.

  2. Wow it stayed as rain all night at the airport. We really dodged a bullet on this one.
    Don't think the whole city stayed as rain though, as it looks like there's a light coating of snow here in the south end. Will go measure whatever is there when it gets a little brighter out.

  3. Got about 0.8 to 1.2 cm coating on on some colder surfaces. Many spots with nothing.

  4. Mostly rain and melted snow in Charleswood.. a little coating on the grass this morning and vehicles, but not much. I measured 16 mm of rain, and 1.6 cm of snow that all melted, with a trace on the ground this morning.

    19 mm of rain/melted snow at the Forks, but only 7.5 mm at YWG airport. I suspect the strong winds at the exposed airport site led to undercatchment with the reading there.

  5. Hey Rob,

    Heading to the Whiteshell for the weekend. Any idea how much snow fell out there?


  6. Report of 23 cm in Pinawa.. generally 15-25 cm over the Whiteshell area. Much of it should melt over the weekend..

  7. I guess the El Nino forcasted just isn't going to materialize. The warming has stopped dead in its tracks so much so that Brett Anderson has written off an El Nino influenced winter altogether. He's predicting near neutral for the first half of winter.

  8. If you're headed out to the Whiteshell/Falcon Lake areas this weekend, be aware that power is out to many of those areas and it may take a few days to restore power.

  9. By the way, I added a link from the Sept 20 1945 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune describing the record early snowfall that year. Click on my name, or see blog entry.

  10. Added link to snowfall photo gallery from Steinbach Online in my blog entry. Some impressive photos there.. looks like a good 30 cm in the Vassar area.

  11. Wow, Rob, it actually makes so much sense that that 1945 snowfall of 1.5 cm happened on the 20th instead of the 19th. The low on the 19th was only 6.7°C, not really cold enough for accumulating snow!

  12. Yeah, I think back in those days the morning precip observation was entered in "yesterday's" data column (as is still done with volunteer climate obs today). Midnight to midnight data from YWG wasn't officially started until the 1950s I think..

  13. For early season snowfall misery though, nothing beats Oct 1959 over SW Manitoba. On Oct 7-8 that year, 30-55 cm of snow fell over SW MB including Brandon. That was followed two days later by another 20-40 cm blizzard on Oct 9-10th, with 100 km/h wind gusts! Snow depths were over 50 cm and towns were stranded for days. To top it off, they had another 15-25 cm snowstorm on Oct 25th. Brandon recorded their snowiest month ever with 115 cm that month, an entire winter's worth of snow! Snow was on the ground from Oct 7th and didn't disappear until 6 months later in early April.. Now THAT'S a long winter!

  14. Visible satellite imagery this morning nicely shows where accumulating snow fell over southern MB the past couple of days. Southeast MB is pretty much covered in snow, but also a couple of nice snow plumes over eastern interlake to just east of Winnipeg from lake effect streamers off Lake Winnipeg yesterday (about 10-15 cm through Selkirk and eastern suburbs, and 20-30 cm in Arborg area) as well as to our west off Lake Manitoba though Portage. Another area of snow in higher upslope area over SW RRV along the Pembina escarpment.

  15. Isn't it getting a little late in the season for frost warnings in New Brunswick? Frost warnings are so frequent there in the past couple weeks you'd think by now people would be numb to it.