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    Categories: Local News

City awakes from winter cold

BE PATIENT – These snow-covered chairs at Ric's Grill tell the story of St. Albert – winter is leaving us but we won't be sipping drinks on the terrace for a few weeks yet.

The first warm rays of sunshine melted the snow on St. Albert’s streets this week, rousing residents from their winter slumber.

The forecast for this weekend calls for temperatures of zero to plus four, which means more melting and keeping a watch on the city’s storm outlets for higher volumes of water.

Greg Grueber, utilities manager for the city of St. Albert, said his crews have extra staff on call this weekend. But they are not worried about potential floodings in the city.

“We watched the warming trends and we prepare our activities in accordance to it,” he said.

“The storm system is keeping up very well. I think if we reached double digit temperatures we might have some challenges and based on the volume how fast the snow is going to go.”

Grueber said that despite the last heavy dump of snow, the amount of water in the city is consistent with previous years.

He expects melting conditions will last for longer than usual, though.

So far, his crews are keeping an eye on the river valley and the storm outlets along the river. They are visually inspected and, if necessary, steamed and thawed to remove any ice blockages.

“We will make sure that those are ready first because if they are not and melting conditions happen, then we can have some water events down in the lower areas,” he said.

In case the water rises along the river trails, residents can head to Riel Park. Its artificial turf field opened on Wednesday, and the first football practices were held this week.

All other natural turf fields in the city won’t open until May, said Kelly McConnell, booking and events manager at Servus Credit Union Place.

“We would need a whole lot of cooperation from Mother Nature between then and now to ensure the fields are at a level where they can be played on,” he said.

“Obviously they have to melt all the snow off and try and have some growth of the grass.”

Wet grass will also keep the golf courses on hold.

Blake Stingley, pro-shop manager at the Sandpiper Golf and Country Club said they hope to open by April 15, weather permitting.

And Sturgeon Valley Golf Club would love to start the season now but must also wait for the snow to melt, said head professional Jason Hnatiw.

“Right now we are taking the snow off of our greens just to give them some exposure to light and help them start growing as soon as possible so they can be ready for spring,” he said.

“It’s sort of a waiting game, just waiting for the snow to melt and the grass to start growing.”

The greens are the most delicate part of the course because the grass is short and needs to dry to be played on.

Once the snow is gone, and depending on how the greens fared through the winter, Hnatiw said they can get the course up and running within a week.

Not golfing but peddling has thus become an option for some.

Cranky’s Bike Shop has sold a few mountain bikes and trail bikes this season.

Owner Andrew Phelps said business at the shop normally starts picking up by mid-March. But the weather has slowed them down this year.

“We are selling more bikes every day now … . March can be all over the place. Some years it’s good and some years it starts late,” he said.

“Normally the Easter long weekend is the typical weekend when the season starts to get going.”

Season or no season, it’s spring at the Enjoy Centre.

The greenhouse follows a set schedule every year, said co-owner Bill Hole. And Easter lilies and spring plants are selling already, thanks to the long weekend.

“Although it’s early to consider planting, getting the varieties that you like is important right now because they tend to disappear,” he said.

“And that’s everything from vegetables to bedding plants to seeds to the spring bulbs.”

Hole said St. Albert has more snow than usual on the ground at this time of the year but people are gearing up for good weather.

Once the sun is out, they want to have their supplies in order. He added that the season for bedding plants does not start until mid-April.

With more sunshine and warmer temperatures around the corner, some may be yearning for picnics in the park or a cold beer on the patio.

That, however, will take a while.

Leslie Horne, assistant manager at St. Albert Earls restaurant, said patio season usually doesn’t start until mid-May. If we’re lucky, it could be the end of.

Viola Pruss: