February 25, 2013
By Leslie-Ann Kroeker
Snow, snow and more snow. That has been the story for much of Saskatchewan this winter.
The amount of snow this season is well above average for this time of year, leaving many Saskatchewan citizens trampling through snow banks and constantly shoveling their walks.
A big reason for the accumulation is an early blizzard that swept the province in late October. This early storm was followed by steady snowfalls throughout winter. Some places, like Regina and Lloydminster, are already 40 cm over the average rate of snowfall. Regina typically reports 105 cm in a year. It is currently sitting at 125-150 cm, with two more months of winter still to go.
"The snow has just stuck around and piled up and up," said John Paul Cragg, warning preparedness meteorologist for Environmental Canada. "It's been around for a long time."
The abundant snow has left many Saskatchewan farmers worried that a quick melt will leave their fields under water when spring rolls around.
If Saskatchewan has cool nights and warm days this spring, the melting snow will infiltrate the soil, which would benefit crops. Flooding will only occur if the ground stays frozen and the snow melts quickly, leaving it nowhere to go but pool and create major seeding issues.
Kyle Heggie owns a 6,000 acre farm with his brother and father outside Leross. His land is currently 30 cm over the average snowfall amount. Last year the family yielded a crop for the first time in three years because of previous flood waters. With all the snow this winter, the 2013 season looks grim, according to Heggie.
"We were just perfect going into freeze up and we figured a little snow cover would be all right but not this much. We'll have some issues again out seeding for sure," said Higgens, who now predicts a late May seeding because of the snow.
The threat of floods from snow waters varies from area to area across the province, according to Grant McLean, cropping management specialist for the Ministry of Agriculture.
"There are parts of the province where things were quite wet and that may be a hindrance to timing of their planting if they have large amounts of snow," said McLean.
"There's a concern about wet conditions in parts of the province (like) north of Prince Albert where they have had very wet conditions for three years. In the southern parts of the province, in most cases their snow only accounts for a modest amount of moisture," said McLean.
Miles Fuchs is a grain farmer near Fleming. He was devastated by the 2011 floods, but says those were due to high rain levels in the spring, not melting snow. According to Fuchs, there are enough rivers, dug outs and reservoirs in the south east area for snow water to drain off.
"It's not the type of snow fall that's going to create an exceptional problem," said Fuchs. "The cold weather may be a forbearer of a more normal spring."
He does hold some concerns for his neighbors to the north.
"They have a tendency where it melts a little bit later and when it does, it melts quickly."
The Saskatchewan government announced recently that it will provide record coverage to the Crop Insurance Program for 2013. The new budget will be a record $198 million this year-nearly double what it was in 2007.
The boost in funding is due to the increase in crop prices, not a prediction of weather or seeding times.
Despite being dumped on by nearly 150 cm of snow, most farmers in the province are still optimistic that the snow will melt slowly and efficiently, according to McLean.
"For the most part, they welcome snow as long as it just doesn't melt quickly and run off," said McLean.
Farmers have until March 31 to apply for crop insurance.
Leslie-Ann Kroeker is a fourth-year journalism student, graduating from the University of Regina in April 2013. She had internships at CBC Saskatchewan and the Moosomin World-Spectator. Follow her on twitter at @lkroeker13 or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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