Recent snow not enough to fully help wildfires

Edmonton and parts of Alberta received a heavy snowfall. As Laura Krause reports, while the precipitation is welcomed, it isn’t enough on its own to make a significant difference to drought conditions and wildfire risk.

Alberta declared an early start to wildfire season due to low snowpack and dry weather, and while the recent major snowfall is welcomed, Alberta Wildfire says it isn’t enough moisture to make a major difference on its own.

“This snow is very welcomed. We need it desperately, it’s been a very dry winter. We’ve seen active wildfires throughout the north of the province due to the lack of snow, so this is very welcomed and we’d like to see more of it,” said Josee St-Onge, provincial information officer with Alberta Wildfire.

“Just on its own, this snowfall isn’t enough to make a significant difference in how we are preparing for the next wildfire season. But, it all adds up so if we continue to receive snow, and we get a lot of rain in the spring as well then it can really change the outcome of the wildfire season in the Spring. But if we don’t get much more then we continue to be at a deficit because drought conditions have been present in most parts of the province for a few years now.”

The amount of snow is important, but so is what happens this Spring.

“We do need a significant amount of precipitation to make a big difference at this point, and it also is dependant on how that snow will melt. So if it melts quickly, and it jut runs off into rivers and creeks and does not absorb into the soil, then it doesn’t help us as much as if we had a nice gradual snow melt and all that moisture goes into the soil. So that’s another factor we will have to see how it plays out to know how we’re going to stand this spring.”

As for your garden or lawn, one avid gardener says the snow could make for some decent moisture conditions come spring, but says more precipitation will be needed.

“Gardeners, I think they really felt it last year, how critical the water is obviously for gardening and for agriculture, so it’s always top of mind. But when we look at what its been like the last couple of months, we could be in the same situation,” said Jim Hole, gardening expert.

“This amount of snow will give us a good jump start in the springtime, but in no means it is the total quantity we need, so we should see some decent moisture conditions come spring, but we got to keep our fingers crossed for rainfall later on.”

Adding, “One thing I’ve learned here in Alberta, you don’t know what the weather is going to be season to season, you gotta keep your fingers crossed.”

Hole says it’s important to conserve water, to use a rain barrel if possible, and to prioritize watering vegetables over your lawn.

“If you’re looking at [watering] something like a lawn versus a vegetable garden, I’d be shifting towards the things you can eat,” said Hole.

“For your lawn, you might have to be prepared to see a bit more brown this year, and not be too paranoid or worried about it. That’s the reality. I like a green lawn, but let’s face it, it doesn’t have to be super green all season long.”

According to Environment Canada, periods of snow are in the forecast in Edmonton this week.

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