/‘Monster’ ice storm leaves businesses closed buses cancelled

‘Monster’ ice storm leaves businesses closed buses cancelled

By Sue Tiffin
Published April 17 2018

The county was pummelled with freezing rain high winds and ice pellets from what Environment Canada called a “historic ice storm” in mid-April this past weekend.

The storm began April 14 and wreaked havoc in southern Ontario causing power outages bus cancellations and school closures hundreds of flight delays more than 1000 car accidents and localized flooding in some parts of the province.

In Haliburton County a volunteer at the Haliburton observation site recorded 20 cm of snowfall on Saturday April 14 and 12 cm of ice pellets and another four to five millimetres of freezing rain on top of that on April 15. Rain leading in to potential flurries on April 16 continued at press time.

“This has been a big one” said Geoff Coulson warning preparedness meteorologist Environment Canada. “Haliburton County may be not getting the biggest impact but certainly when I look at the weather map and I see the areas that this storm has impacted not just in Canada but in the United States as well it was a monster in terms of its size.”

“How slow-moving it was led to some big amounts of ice pellets and freezing rain and snow in different parts of the province.”

Coulson said the storm was still causing significant disruptions to the east of Haliburton County mostly toward the Ottawa Valley and in northern Ontario on Monday afternoon and was heading toward Quebec and the Maritimes.

It was about a week ago that Coulson said it became apparent that the models were saying we were going to be at risk of an extensive period of freezing rain and ice pellets and that meteorologists saw a storm coming that they don’t see very often at all in southern Ontario in a season that should be mild enough that precipitation would normally be rain.

“That certainly unfortunately came to pass” he said. “That’s why I think this historic label that got mentioned was just looking back over the past couple of decades certainly in late March and maybe the first part of April we can see some snow and freezing rain in different parts of the province but to see a storm of this size and this intensity with this much freezing rain ice pellets and snow in southern Ontario … this is one I haven’t seen. I haven’t seen this much ice pellets at one time in the 30 some-odd years I’ve been doing this job.”

The ice pellets that struck Toronto Barrie and Kitchener were described by Coulson as being “unrelenting.”

“Just trying to move the stuff it’s like trying to shift concrete” he said saying cars in his area were in a “cocoon of snow and ice” that morning.

Coulson said there almost appeared to be a bit of a split in the pattern as to where the biggest numbers were.

Schools were open but buses were cancelled throughout Haliburton County on April 16 making for the county’s seventh school snow day this year.

“Typically our schools are open on bus cancellation days” said Catherine Shedden of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board communication team. “Staff are required to do their best to get to their school or the closest TLDSB building to their home. There is additional time given for staff to get to a TLDSB location. However on a day like today [April 16] if a staff member has tried and cannot make it due to unsafe road conditions near their home they are not required to attend. This is a decision made by senior administration on the day of the inclement weather day. In this case there are no consequences for staff who do not attend. The safety of staff and students is the primary consideration when determining whether or not to close a school. TLDSB schools are rarely closed. For instance today we have four schools in City of Kawartha Lakes without power and without water. We are sending students and staff home from these schools.”

At press time Hydro One had restored power to approximately 181500 customers throughout the province since the beginning of the storm.

According to a press release issued on April 16 at noon early damage assessment showed “a lot of tree damage and hydro poles down.”

“At this point crews are facing hazardous conditions and significant damage including broken poles downed lines and fallen trees as a result of the weather” reads the outage notification.

“Over 350 resources including lines maintainers foresters support staff and technicians have been mobilized to southwestern Ontario and more than 500 have been mobilized provincewide.”

In the Minden area two incidents resulted in 46 customers being without power.

Township and municipality staff around the county reminded residents to be patient and safe while staff was working to ensure safety on roads and sidewalks even as the snow and rain continued on April 16.

In Algonquin Highlands the municipal office Dorset Recreation Centre and the Stanhope airport were all closed due to the weather.

“Public Works are out making it safe for all of us” said Angie Bird Algonquin Highlands CAO.

The Dysart fire department had a quiet weekend with only one call. “I think people heeded the warning and stayed home” said Mike Iles fire chief.

He cautioned people to ensure their furnace vents are clear of snow and ice accumulation.

“All the steps in town are covered in ice so we’ve got all the parks staff working on getting those and the medical centre sidewalks cleared up right now” said Tamara Wilbee Dysart CAO. “We’ve got a few staff out of the office as their roads are bad and have cancelled a meeting but other than that [it’s] pretty normal just not used to this much wet packed down snow in April.”

An extremely busy Minden Hills roads supervisor Travis Wilson reminded residents to be patient. “Our fleet is equipped with tire chains and our speed is cut nearly in half with them on” he said.

In Highlands East CAO Shannon Hunter said it was best to stay off the roads if possible. “If travel is necessary please proceed with caution”she said. “We would like to thank everyone for their patience as snow removal is extremely difficult this time of year … We would like to also thank all the snowplow operators for the work that they do.”

Haliburton Highlands OPP reported two motor vehicle collisions in relation to the weather over the weekend and reminded motorists that road conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly asking drivers to be patient reduce speed and drive according to conditions if it was necessary to be travelling.

Businesses throughout the county were greatly affected by the storm as customers stayed home and staff were sent home early for safety. Over the weekend and on April 16 businesses and organizations including McKecks Haliburton Highlands Brewing Rhubarb Country Bakery Haliburton Foodland La Luna Del Nordo Baked and Battered Boshkung Brewing Co. Haliburton RPM Minden Hills administration office Point in Time Todd’s Independent Castle Antiques and Kosy Korner closed early or didn’t open due to inclement weather.

“A lot of our employees drive in quite a ways so we were more concerned about the employees than anything” said Ann Gordon of Kosy Korner.

Some of the Kosy Korner staff could walk to work and did so to open at 6 a.m. but at noon at shift-change Gordon said it wasn’t worth risking safety to stay open and closed early on April 15 and 16. One Kosy Korner waitress drives in from Bancroft.

“Kosy’s tradition is that we open no matter what” said Gordon. “We seldom close early. It was unusual especially mid-day. We’ve never closed at noon in the seven years that I’ve owned it.”
“It sticks to all the trees” she said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re out there. Might as well just embrace it folks.”

“It’s going to cost us money that’s for sure” said Gordon. “Sunday is a very busy day for us so it was tough to make that decision but staff is more important … we worry about those guys.”

It was an unprecedented moment for the Kosy Korner.

When asked if she was looking forward to spring Gordon laughed.

“I saw a thing on Facebook today” she said. “[It said] ‘I can’t wait for summer I hope it falls on a weekend.’ That’s kind of how I’m feeling right now.”

In Haliburton County many residents hibernated throughout the weekend posting indoor photos of comfy family get-togethers and of snow drifts online the latter which surprised people living in areas less affected by snow outside of the county.

Throughout the area some snowmobilers took their sleds back out of the garage to get in one last ride during what had been an otherwise lacklustre season.

Jason Casey on Harmony Road in Haliburton has been working on older sleds and took a 1969 “gem” out for a ride because of how much snow had fallen.

“He had a blast” laughed his wife Ashlee. “If we can’t laugh through this weather we may go insane.”

Geri Woudstra’s video of her mid-April snowmobiling adventure through “the old highway” on her property in Haliburton was featured on the Weather Network throughout the day on Sunday.

“I’ll take any chance I can get to go out on the snowmobile” she laughed. “It was a sad season when it comes to snowmobiling there was hardly any opportunities to get out so … why not? I had to dig it out but …”

Woudstra said her husband Don’s sled was unfortunately frozen into the ground after the rain and “wacky weather” but she was happy to get one more ride in.

“It’s so beautiful right now” she said. “I know there’s a lot of people complaining but honestly if you paused and looked out this is beautiful. If you can get past the fact that it’s April it really is beautiful.”

Woudstra was considering taking her snowshoes out on April 16 enjoying the beauty of the snowfall.

“It sticks to all the trees” she said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re out there. Might as well just embrace it folks.”