Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
While it can be tempting to ditch winter clothes and take the plunge into warm weather with the recent abnormally high temperatures, Environment and Climate Change Canada warns that a “fool’s spring” brings more troubles than just the inevitable cold front.
It’s been a rather dry winter, said ECCC meteorologist Sara Hoffman, with Medicine Hat having the 43rd driest winter on record out of 133 years of data.
“That puts you in sort of the top third of driest winters,” said Hoffman. “Lethbridge was drier, it had the 22nd driest winter on record with 119 years of data in Lethbridge. So certainly a dry winter. Looking at some webcams in the area, I don’t see any snow left on the ground. So certainly these above normal temperatures that you’re referring to, will go a long way into sort of drying out the ground even more.”
With the absence of snow and warm weather comes a risk that is often more associated with the height of summer, too; grassfire.
“One thing we always kind of worry about at this time of year is grass fires. Right before green-up, right before we get alive plants, You’ve got really dry dead fuel that, if a passing cigarette butt or spark of any kind, interacts with that fuel and the winds are blowing enough you could get grass fires. So early spring, and is kind of a dangerous time for that,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman encourages people to be mindful of heat sources as they enjoy the weather, especially when enjoying these activities out in fields before the grass begins to grow in.
“It’s important to be kind of mindful about how we’re behaving near those dried fuels, those dead grasses,” said Hoffman. “A smart thing to do is make sure you’re if you’re out on an ATV or something like that you’re making sure that your exhaust system is clean, because sometimes mud and grass and such can accumulate in a tailpipe. And that can sort of get heated up by the machine, and then it can fall out, and then it can start grass fires or even wildfires. So it’s an important thing to make sure that we’re being extra careful when conditions are so dry.”
These dry conditions may not last, however, as the area may be in the middle of what she refers to as a “fool’s spring,” with more winter cold and precipitation on its way.
“It’s pretty tempting, seeing those 20 degrees Celsius daytime highs in the long range forecast to get your winter tires off and take your snow brush out of your vehicle, but we’re kind of in fool’s spring as they say where one day can be 20 degree high and the next day can be near zero with snow,” said Hoffman. “That’s just the time of the year that we’re in. So I would encourage everyone to keep your snow brush in your vehicle. Keep your winter tires on your vehicle just a little while longer until we know we’re out of that snow risk. Easter is about usually the time that we take our tires off, and I would just encourage everyone to stay vigilant for snowfall.”