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Janice Huser photo
Janice Huser photo
The MCSNet tower at Lottie Lake, along with about 40 other towers, were damaged by the high winds experienced last week, resulting in about 5,000 people being without Internet service.
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Rising temperatures bring dangerous winds, messy roads

Jan 21, 2014 11:30 am | Sam Macdonald

Some unusual weather hit the St. Paul area on Tuesday night, as temperatures drastically rose overnight, and winds picked up to dangerous speeds, nearing 100 km/h.

According to Environment Canada’s online weather summary, the high winds and warmer temperatures were the result of “an intense low pressure system … over much of northern Alberta.”

Environment Canada measured winds gusting as high as 120 km/h at the Edmonton Airport, 113 km/h in Vegreville, 107 km/h in Lloydminster, and 104 km/h in Lac La Biche, on Jan 15.

In addition to the intense winds speeds, Environment Canada states that record high temperatures were broken for Jan. 15 in areas including the Edmonton Airport breaking its 2004 record of 6.9 C when it reached 9 C, and Cold Lake broke its 2013 record high of 5.7 C when temperatures hit 9.1 C last week.

“Basically, the storm we got has been really, really heavy winds,” said Rick Robinson, manager of Public Works for the Town of St. Paul. “The wind has been increasing since morning, it seems.”

Robinson said the wind affected different things around town.

“Some of the Christmas light fixtures that were put on main street are getting blown down on main street, some are getting wrecked because of it. There’s the odd street sign that’s been blown down as well.”

Robinson also said problems arose with the roads, and although the rain and warm temperatures packed down the snow and kept it from blowing it around, the melting snow did cause some issues.

“We had warm weather with rain last night, so (the snow) is all packed down. We don’t have too much blowing snow, but the wind is causing havoc with snow removal. We have to be careful how we raise our truck boxes in this wind, because it can knock our truck-boxes over. The wind can just grab them and flip them over,” said Robinson.

The warm weather also created some slushy roads and caused ruts to form.

“That makes more snow removal for us, and we just have to get on that,” said Robinson.

The high winds had some potentially serious consequences on different infrastructure around town. A communication tower belonging to Telus behind the theatre caused an emergency call when the wind appeared to knock loose a part of the equipment on the tower. Robinson said as a precaution, a nearby alley was barricaded off, in case anything was to come loose and fall.

“We notified Telus about it, and they’re not going up at the moment because it’s too windy. So that alley is going to stay closed down for a bit,” said Robinson on Wednesday.

About 5,000 MCSNet customers were still feeling the effects of the wind storm on Thursday afternoon.

Jerico Vanbrabant, CTO of MCSNet, confirmed that about 40 of the company’s towers were damaged in the windstorm.

“We have to go out there and physically replace the structures,” he explained, adding that when a tower is damaged it usually folds over. Staff was expected to work through the weekend to get as many towers operating as quickly as possible.

Being that it’s winter, staff will face other obstacles, such as having to plow snow to get the equipment in place to replace the damaged towers.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Vanbrabant, adding, it looks as though damages were worse in the Lac La Biche and Athabasca areas.

In response to the weather, St. Paul Education Regional Division shut down all buses running in the County of St. Paul for Jan. 15.

“With high winds and the potential of icy roads with rain . . . the decision was made at 6 a.m. to not run any county buses. Schools still remained open, and buses in the town of St. Paul were all running as usual.” said Superintendent Glen Brodziak, on Wednesdsay.

Brodziak said that in addition to busing arrangements, many schools within the division had to deal with power outages in the morning also.

“Power was out in a lot of St. Paul. For a two-hour period . . . That created another factor for us to consider,” said Brodziak.

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