Southern Yukon digs out of 'record-breaking territory' snowfall

Parts of Alaska Highway and Klondike highways reopening, South Klondike being cleared

CBC: Whitehorse residents were advised to stay off the roads if possible on Monday, as a winter storm continued. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Whitehorse residents were advised to stay off the roads if possible on Monday, as a winter storm continued. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Highways are reopening in Yukon, after a morning of heavy snowfall across the southern part of the territory that left the airport and multiple highways closed.

Parts of the Alaska Highway and Klondike highways are being reopened, though travel advisories are still in effect.

Earlier on Monday, a long stretch of the Alaska Highway, the South Klondike Highway and parts of the North Klondike Highway were shut down. These southern highways have now been upgraded to a "travel advisory" status.

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"Our highway crews have been running flat-out since yesterday," said Oshea Jephson, a spokesperson for Yukon's highways department, on Monday morning.

"We just want people to be patient. Everyone is dealing with the snow."

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Doug Lundquist, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, has worked in B.C. and Yukon for over three decades, but says he's "never quite seen a storm like this."

"We think maybe in Whitehorse it was probably in the 40 to 60 centimetre range ... in the last three days. Teslin's about 34 ... Watson Lake I see about 33."

On Monday alone, he said the estimated snowfall in Whitehorse was about 30 to 41 cm, an amount that far exceeds daily records for October and November, which he said range from 5 to 15 cm.

"We've had three days in a row where we are perhaps in record-breaking territory ... there were no days in the month, in the old way of measuring things, that we came even close to 41. It's right out of the ballpark."

He said the system is caused by Arctic air from northern Yukon colliding with moisture coming up from tropical climates over the southern part of the territory.

The heavy snowfall continued through the night across most of southern Yukon, and was expected to continue until later on Monday in Watson Lake, according to a winter storm warning from Environment Canada. An earlier winter storm warning for Whitehorse had been lifted by Monday afternoon.

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The City of Whitehorse said that garbage pick up was happening Monday, though delays were possible. On Twitter the city asked that people leave their bins out for Tuesday morning if they get missed.

The Whitehorse airport was also closed on Monday, as the runway was unusable.

"Crews have been doing their best to try and clear it, but it's a large area to cover. And the snow is also caused more than 50 per cent of our runway lights to be covered," said Jephson.


Schools in Whitehorse, however, remained open — despite a plea from the city for people to stay off the roads if possible.

School buses would be running Monday afternoon but delays are expected because of road conditions, said Kyle Nightingale of Yukon's education department, in an email to CBC.

"Students will be able to be bused home along highway routes with some delays. School buses may have trouble accessing secondary roads off the highway if snow has not yet been cleared," Nightingale said.

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The department recommended that guardians meet students at their stop or at the nearest clear road to make sure they get home safely. The current status of bus routes can be found here.

"Schools are safe places for students during extreme weather events," said Kyle Nightingale in a written statement on Monday morning.

Some school buses were expected to be late, other routes were cancelled this morning. Buses in Carcross and Watson Lake were not running.

A City of Whitehorse spokesperson said in an email on Monday morning that city transit was also experiencing delays. Some buses were getting stuck, wrote Myles Dolphin.

"Transit is still running, but it's delayed. Buses can no longer pull in to pick passengers up, they have to stay in their lanes and turn their hazard lights on — passengers have to walk over to the bus and board it," Dolphin wrote.

"We are asking people to limit their travel to essential travel only today. If you don't have to be on the roads, stay off them."

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City busses to the airport and to the Raven's Ridge neighbourhood were not running.

A weather alert from Environment Canada said the snow was expected to taper off this evening around Watson Lake. In the meantime, strong northerly winds were also expected, reducing visibility with blizzard-like conditions.

"Consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve," the advisory states.

An earlier alert sent for Whitehorse is no longer in effect.


Other closures/cancellations on Monday

  • No Canada Post mail delivery in Whitehorse

  • All programs, lessons and classes at the Canada Games Centre cancelled as of 1 p.m. (facility remains open, however)

  • Flu shot clinic at Yukon Convention Centre closed

  • Whitehorse Public Library closed

  • Yukon government solid waste facilities closed

  • Family Literacy Centre closed

  • Yukon Arts Centre closed until noon

This article was originally published for CBC News.