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Calgary just saw an ‘unprecedented’ amount of October snow

A blanket of heavy snow in Kananaskis, Alberta, about 50 miles west of Calgary, early Wednesday morning. (Tom Graham) (Tom Graham)

A major early-season snowstorm has left parts of southern Canada buried beneath up to two feet of snow. It’s the most recent in a slew of fall snowstorms across the country. Although accumulating snow has now ended in most of the region, cold weather that has dominated the nation this fall is anticipated to stick around. More snow may soon be in the offing, as well.

If you’re thinking that it’s on the early side for a big dump of snow, even for our wintry neighbors to the north, you’re right.

“Snow in Alberta is not uncommon this time of year,” said Kim MacDonald, an evening anchor with the Weather Network of Canada. But “the amount has been unprecedented.”

In Calgary, Alberta — about 150 miles north of the international border with Montana — the nearly 13 inches that fell Tuesday was a record for any day during October. Snow also fell Monday and Wednesday.

Kyle Brittain, video journalist for the Weather Network, said it was the city’s “seventh-all-time-snowiest day.”

Weatherlogics posted a full list of the largest daily totals in Calgary — this one is the earliest on that list by more than a month:

To the west of Calgary, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park, the early nature of this major snowfall also was unlike any in recent memory.

“I’ve been out here since 2002,” said storm chaser and photographer Tom Graham. “Earliest snowfall I’ve experienced, as well as my boss, who’s been here since 1986.″

Over the course of the storm that overlapped multiple days, Calgary received about 15 inches of snow (from a recent report by Environment Canada). This compares with an average of about four inches in the entire month of October, according to the Weather Network’s MacDonald.

Kananaskis, to the west of Calgary, where Graham lives, has posted numbers of nearly two feet.

Generally, storm totals of about eight to 18 inches were common across the province.

Despite snarled traffic, and wrecks including one 30-vehicle crash that caused a fatality, Canadians mostly took the early-season snowstorm in stride. As traffic came to a standstill for hours near the mountains, a trumpeter kept the tunes coming. Pandas were also seen frolicking in the snow at the Calgary Zoo. Puppies reportedly had a blast, as well.

Right behind this departing storm, cold air is anticipated to stick around. While the temperature may briefly rise to near 40 degrees Fahrenheit later this week in Calgary, more cold air is expected to arrive during the weekend.

And it’s still way out there in forecast land, but the best weather modeling for this time range suggests the region will experience another snowstorm system next week. Tuesday night’s European weather model forecast, for example, predicts more significant snow in southern Alberta and into Montana, including the Rockies on both sides of the border, early next week.

Brittain confirmed that conditions have been exceptionally snowy. “Edmonton saw its snowiest September ever,” he said.

Although the U.S. weather observation network is much larger than that available in Canada, tools we do have to watch snowfall there show that there has been more than normal snow in much of Canada for about three to four weeks now, basically since mid-September.

It is too early in the building winter season to say whether this cold air has any long-term meaning across Canada and into the United States, but some unusually low temperatures are already expected to spill south in the days and weeks ahead. And, of course, the longer the snowpack sticks around, the harder it will be to get rid of as daylight continues to dwindle rapidly.