PINCHER CREEK’S WINTER WEATHER AT ITS BEST

The high accumulation of snow that can occur in autumn and winter along with the prevailing westerly winds vividly remind us of those changeable winter weather patterns of the past.

By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society

WINTER WEATHER FOR CHRISTMAS 1917

According to the old records, Christmas 1917 dawned cold and was accompanied by fairly high snowfalls. The coldest was the morning of Christmas Eve when the temperature dipped down to 26 degrees below Fahrenheit. The overnight temperatures remained almost that cold for the next four nights, and the daytime readings fluctuated between –11 degrees and 20 degrees on the old scale. Meteorological notes indicate that seven inches of snow fell during those five days, and local press reports indicated that the snow fall was widespread throughout southwestern Alberta.

A CHINOOK ROLLED INTO TOWN ONE DAY

In typical local fashion, everything changed virtually overnight. On Saturday, 29th December 1918, one of Pincher Creek’s infamous and most welcomed Chinooks blew fiercely into town. The temperature rose dramatically. Registering a cold zero as the day’s low, it rose a tremendous 52 degrees by 8 p.m. that evening. The editor of the Pincher Creek Echo reported that by early Saturday morning, water was running down Main Street, and locals, concerned about a possible flood, were clearing obstructions away from the street drains. That evening, most of the snow had melted but everything was one massive mud hole. The warm weather continued until 04th January 1918, and within 24 hours of the initial warming trend, the streets in town had virtually dried out. Our pioneers knew they could never under estimate the power of those westerly winds.

Even in the country, the conditions were thawing out. As early as noon on that changeable Saturday, motorists were able to come into town from points as far south as Twin Butte. This was no mean feat given motor vehicle technology as well as the road conditions of the time, aided and abetted by the heavy snow which had built up the previous month.

A MARCH STORM BLEW IN WITH HIGH WINDS AND HEAVY SNOW FALL

Local temperatures made the usual winter fluctuations during the rest of January and February. Late in February another storm blew into the Pincher Creek area, and although the temperatures still hovered in the ten-and-twenty-degree Fahrenheit range, this weather change was more noted for its snow falls accompanied by gusty winds. On Feb 24, just under a foot of snow fell in town and according to local folklore; up to an additional eight inches fell in the foothills and mountains. The following two days the winds picked up to gale force, and the press reported that at times it was nearly impossible to see across any street in town due to the blowing snow. By nine p.m. the evening of the 26th, the winds had died down, and the snow-covered landscape had changed significantly in typical Pincher Creek fashion: there were wide areas where the ground was swept bare of snow yet in the sheltered areas there were high deeply crusted drifts.

Located in great numbers throughout the countryside, these drifts made travel difficult. Bus connections with the trails at Pincher Station had great difficulty in traveling back and forth, and reportedly got stuck on a regular basis. Conditions to the west and south of town told similar stories: large drifts which accumulated along Lang’s Coulee as well as at Mountain Mill made it very difficult to reach Beaver Mines for several days, and the blizzard conditions down at Waterton Lakes virtually closed down activity there. The only saving grace was that the storm did not block rail traffic along the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Crowsnest Line: the trains had enough power to get through the drifting snow.

As we now watch the current winter weather unfold, we are reminded that Pincher Creek’s very changeable weather patterns truly have not changed all that much over the years.