Emcon tracking snow buildup on Trail bridge

A driver recently reported that snow fell from the Victoria Street Bridge and cracked his windshield.

A driver on Victoria Street Bridge recently reported that snow fell from above and cracked his windshield.

Fortunately no one was hurt, but the unusual incident prompted Emcon maintenance workers to get on top of the structure’s foot-or-so of snow accumulation to avoid further hazard to motorists and pedestrians.

“We had a call that some ice and snow had fallen and the person claimed it hit their windshield,” Ken Lawson, Emcon’s Kootenay Boundary division manager, confirmed on Friday. “So we were out there last week (Dec. 30) with a lift truck.

“We closed the span and detoured traffic then worked our way back,” he said. “We were scraping and getting off what we could on the vertical surfaces there hasn’t been snow accumulation since, so we are hoping it will be alright.”

Keeping an eye on the bridge is a regular part of Emcon maintenance says Lawson, though he didn’t recall past incidents of falling snow and related injury or damage complaints.

“We do watch it and patrol through there, but if people notice anything please report it to us,” Lawson said. “There’s still going to be some (accumulation) it always melts and falls, but there shouldn’t be anything large enough, hopefully, to cause damage,” he added. “We are hoping for a slower more natural melt.”

Anyone who witnesses bridge or other road-related problems is encouraged to call Emcon’s 24-hour road-related emergency line at 1.866.353.3136.

With temperatures falling almost two degrees below norm for January, snow in the valley will likely pile up at least until month end.

Interestingly, the amount of precipitation is normal it’s the cold climate that is atypical.

“What we often see this time of year is Pacific frontal systems coming in that start as snow and turn to rain in the following days with the warm up,” explained local forecaster Jesse Ellis. “Even though we picked up a normal amount of snow over the weekend it’s stacking up and not going away because temperatures are cooler than normal, the majority of the time below zero.”

The mean temperature is usually 2.1 C, but in December it averaged -3.9 C.

“That’s when you take all the highs and all the lows and average them out,” said Ellis. “That’s almost two degrees, which on any given day is no big deal, but take that average over 30 days and (it’s notable) to me, that is the bigger difference this year compared to past years.”

The snow pack is also within the typical range, Lawson added.

“There actually appears to be a little bit less, believe it or not,” he said. “We’ve had more snow in the valley bottom and a little more in Grand Forks (Emcon’s office) but at the higher elevations our snow pack is actually below what we had last year at this time.”

The River Forecast Centre updated its data Monday afternoon, and section head David Campbell confirmed the Emcon manager’s observations.

“We just released our first report today with January 1 values,” he told the Trail Times. “We’ve got a base and index value which covers the area we call the Lower Columbia, from Revelstoke south through to Trail and then also includes the West Kootenay, the Slocan area and Nelson,” Campbell explained. “We amalgamate that our index for the West Kootenay is 80 per cent of normal.”

Last January, the West Kootenay snow pack sat at 109 per cent (85 to 115 per cent are considered near-normal snow packs).

“We look at individual values, and they do range,” Campbell added. “But looking at that collective area it is a little bit lower than last year.