Final flurry facts


By Sheila Runions

The Rivers Banner

Readers will recall last week’s issue of both this newspaper and the matter of the storm. Submission deadline is Tuesday at 5 p.m. yet often, that rule is stretched to accommodate as best we can before the pages are completed and sent to the print shop in early afternoon on Wednesday. When reporting on the Monday-Wednesday blizzard, final figures were not yet released so let’s recap.

It was the worst winter storm in Manitoba’s history, breaking the record originally set in 1959. Environment Canada did not compile results specific to Rivers or this paper’s coverage area but they did generate information for Brandon, which states the storm raged for 31 hours. Manitoba’s worst storm was Winnipeg, 1959, 29 hours; Brandon’s worst storm was 1975, 18 hours. Residents were warned Sunday evening, March 5, that extreme weather was coming in less than 24 hours; that extreme weather warning finally lifted at 7 a.m. Wednesday, March 8. During that extreme warning, 41.4 centimetres (16.3 inches) of snow fall was recorded in Brandon and many speculate more than that landed in Rivers. Barb Szapko of Bradwardine is a Hamiota rural route mail driver (Bradwardine, Harding, Arrow River, Decker, Solsgirth); she reports the eight miles of road from near Wheatland to east of Rivers were the worst she travelled during her work day and then personal time to Brandon. Indeed, Hwy. 25 was very snow packed and rutted, much moreso than roads closer to Brandon; therefore, one can presume more snow fell in the Rivers area than at Brandon. Environment Canada also reports eight hours of zero visibility in Brandon with five consecutive hours of zero visibility. The maximum wind speed there was 95 kilometres per hour; the maximum sustained wind was 71 kilometres per hour. These strong winds were responsible for whipping snow into concrete-like strength, such as confirmed by an unknown driver who stranded himself on a massive drift just east of the railroad tracks. This portion of Hwy. 25 west of Rivers was reduced to one-lane traffic. 

Another picture reveals how much snow collected at the northwest end of Rivers. Riverdale Municipality workers initially left parts of Dominion Street unplowed; the back lane of Zion Church to the opening of Fourth Avenue had such great drifting that that portion remained plugged until Thursday. Most other streets and lanes in town were cleared on Tuesday, thanks to employees beginning their plowing efforts as early as 5 a.m. The car pictured is on Dominion near Fifth Avenue where one can easily see the amount of snow which filled this open area and much of Fifth Avenue itself. Rivers Collegiate custodian Ted Mayor is dwarfed with his snowblower beside the massive drift that blocked the south doors of the school on Wednesday afternoon. Sean Branconier spent all day Wednesday uncovering his vehicle; it was completely buried in snow along his treed driveway to his home on Hwy. 250 north in Rivers. 

It was also reported last week that some Cardale area residents were without power for some 18 hours. It has since been learned that the entire Spring Valley district (west of Deerboine Colony, which is located between Rivers and Alexander) was without power for 26 hours. The farm of Elwin and Elaine Kettner a few miles south of Bradwardine was also without power for 26 hours. Southeast of Rivers at the farm of Alex and Marianne Gerrard (in the Harrow district), they were without power for 20 hours. Yet Rivers and Bradwardine were fortunate enough to have no outages, though the hydro did flicker several times on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Yes, this storm was indeed one for the history books.