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Reporter's notebook: Alberta

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By Chris St. Clair
Weather Broadcaster
@cstclair1
Monday, September 9, 2013, 4:22 PM

"Alberta."

It can be hard to believe how changeable the weather in Alberta is until you find yourself driving south on Highway 2 near Claresholm.

The sun is shining, the sky is clear, the temperature is just over 30°C and thunderstorms may loom later in the afternoon afternoon.

Dust rises from the roads that edge lushly irrigated fields, it’s early September and the harvest is on. Farmers we spoke to in Stavely said this years crop is excellent and they don’t want rain for another week or so.

Rain.

In southern Alberta there hasn't been much. In fact in the past 40 days just about a centimeter and a half has fallen. That’s less than an inch. The air is dry and so is everything else but the fields. Yet, only nine weeks ago flooding was all people talked about and lived here.

The floods that began the summer were the end result of a series of circumstances that culminated with one rainstorm. That storm offered nearly a summer's worth of rain over two days. Nearly 19 centimeters fell in the Bow Valley.

The rain was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

The other day we drove through Kananaskis country. Construction crews here will work for another year shoring up the damaged dams and spillways of the artificial and natural lakes here.

Walking the berms of these reservoirs you can see the damage and the debris - tree trunks - entire 20 metre pines rest on top of the rocky dams. They lie here because of the rapid melt of a near record setting winter snow pack.

As a matter of fact, ask any skier or boarder, they can tell you how amazing the conditions were, and how long the season lasted here on the Rockies.

The rapid melt had already put pressure on the infrastructure that manages the spring runoff. The rain simply pushed the systems, both natural and man made, past the limit. We know how the story ends, a $5 billion flood.

We drove The Crowsnest Pass, through Frank. The scene here is breathtaking or other worldly, or both. The weather helped carve the side off of Turtle Mountain!

Walking the boulders on the north side of the highway, Frank is somewhere below the over 80 million tonnes of rock that have filled this valley. Back in 1903 between 60 and 90 people were forever buried here. The noise of the landslide could be heard outside of Calgary, dust hung in this valley for days.

In the end, the weather did this too.

Late April warmth, a winter snowpack melting into the fissures of the mountain and then a sudden cold snap. The temperature fell to minus 18°C on April 29 the melt water froze and in doing so expanded and pushed Turtle Mountain apart.

Cameraman/Editor Shawn Legg and I spent a week driving southern Alberta, filming stories about how changeable and dangerous the weather is here. I hope you’ll take time over the next few days to watch them on The Weather Network on television.

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