Red Arrow
Tuesday January 10th, 2012  
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Quote of the Week
"Mother Nature has been throwing us a few curve balls and we've had a very challenging early season."
- Dave Morrison  
Pass PowderKeg Manager   
   

 

Story
John Kinnear photo
Chinook Arch on Highway 22
 
Looking Back - John KinnearGood Grief!  It is Wednesday January 4th and for the umpteenth time my IPod weather app is flashing that red banner of wind warnings in the Crowsnest Pass. They might as well just leave that banner streaming there all the time the way it is going. One hundred kilometer winds forecast here, one hundred and ten in Calgary.
“Strong westerly winds are blowing along the Southern Alberta foothills. Winds will spread eastward towards Calgary blah blah blah.” It is like a stuck record.  And man, have I had my fill of this continuous bulk movement of air.
When I chose to move back here in 2005 an old friend in Fernie by the name of Buck Jones said: “You will regret it, the wind blows there all the damn time.”  I remember saying something like how bad could it be really! I grew up here and learned how to lean into the wind as a kid but Holy Mackerel, this is different now.  I saw a raven blast by my house this morning at about 80 kmph and when he looked down at me he had a real worried look on his face.
The lenticular clouds so typical of this chinooking phenomenon are spectacular to look at but they are also the signal that down slope winds are a comin’.  Another predictor of a warm high speed attack coming is Chinook Peak west of us in the Flathead Range.  That long streak of streaming snow coming off its peak means we are in for it.
Sooo..  David Phillips, Canada’s most popular weatherman and great purveyor of climatological wisdom and Environment Canada’s respected predictor of what weather is to come.  What sayest thou now?  La Nina will bring a brutally hard winter this year was what senior climatologists were initially predicting.  Mr. Phillips is quoted recently as saying:” My God, nobody would have been able to suggest this kind of weather that you’ve seen so far would have materialized.”  He also said that even in an El Nino year it wouldn’t have been this balmy and that they have “backed off on their model”.  Backed off indeed!
The chinook phenomenon is quite simply, westerly winds that have shed their moisture and then rumble down the eastern slopes of the Rockies where pressure in the lower atmosphere heats it.  Anyone who has used a bicycle pump knows that the handle warms up as the pressure rises. Guess I dated myself with that comment aye!
Speaking of pressure, I am grateful that I have a metal roof that is thoroughly screwed down.  I was driving down Highway 22 on November 23rd when the Bernoulli effect was once again proven at the J.T. Foster High School in Nanton. The reduced pressure on the rooftop caused by 100 kilometer plus winds peeled the roof off the gymnasium clean as a whistle.  There were not many trucks on 22 that day but the one that I was behind coming out of Longview took out three white posts when a cross wind caught him.
It is interesting to read that Alberta Transportation has decided to put wind sensors and warning signs activated by them on this highway.
 

Winds have been recorded as high as 189 kilometers per hour there and it is generally new comers who get fooled and whap, there goes their skidoo trailer into the farmers field. For those of us familiar with this road the clue that it is bad comes when you switch lanes without turning the steering wheel.
 In the past chinook winds were welcomed by most as a nice respite from the drudgery of long cold winters but these days many find that the almost continuous dry, highly charged air flows leave them irritable and short on sleep.  Those intermittent gusts that shake your house at 3 AM are unnerving and it has become routine to find my snow shovels have been sucked out of my breezeway overnight and are laying in the middle of the road. Thank God Fortis fixed that wind slap power outage headache cause if I had to reset all six digital clocks in my house one more time I would have lost it.
Eastern counterparts to the chinook, called “Foehn” winds in the Alps, are blamed for adverse health effects and increases in crime, accidents and suicide rates.  The only thing suicidal about chinooks that I can see is that people go out wind surfing during them.  In fact the men's world speed record was set in southern Alberta on Stafford Lake when Russel Long hit 70 kph (43 mph).  It is a pretty gutsy wind surfer that goes out onto Crowsnest Lake these days.  (I just had a funny mental picture pop into my head of a wind surfer airborne over the Devon sulphur plant wondering how the hell he was going to get down to earth.)
 Back in 1967 when I was studying architecture a wind gust design chart in the National Building Code listed Cowley, Alberta as having the highest wind gusts in Canada at 212 kph (133 mph). That would be about the speed that the links would start snapping off the end of the chain wind sock I am going to install on the hill above my house!  Incidentally, fear of the wind is known as anemophobia but we Passites are fearless. We just hunker down or lean into it.
The Mayans actually built anemometers (wind measuring devices) called wind towers. According to the experts 2012 is the year that the Mayan calendar runs out. Actually their calendar goes in cycles so it is merely the end of a cycle.  All you fatalists out there can give your heads a shake. The world is NOT going to end. AND NEITHER IS THIS GO#$%@* WIND!
 
Editors Note: By the time John had finished this article Highway 2 had been closed because of a high wind driven grass fires near Fort MacLeod and Nanton and Calgary broke one of twelve weather records that day with a high of 15.2 C.
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