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Damage coin box

Vandalism behind temporary shutdown of Pincher Creek standpipe

An apparent thief or thieves targeting the coin box at the Pincher Creek water standpipe, operated by the MD of Pincher Creek, managed to put the entire unit out of commission.

In a social media post Friday morning, the MD reported that due to vandalism, the standpipe is currently not operational.

At this point, there’s no indication how long it will take to get it back up and running.

Those needing potable water will need to travel to Cowley.

Unlike the MD’s standpipes in Pincher Creek and near Beaver Mines, which are both lower and upper fill, the Railway Avenue water station in Cowley is only upper fill.

 

Red and black angus bulls on poster for Blades Angus Bull Sale

 

This photo from Sept. 10, 2023, taken just downstream of the Oldman River Dam spillway, shows how bad things were last year. Early predictions are the region could see similar drought-like conditions again this summer.

Oldman Watershed Council receives provincial grant

With record-low water levels throughout much of the province, including our region, the Alberta government has announced a $3.5-million investment in what it hopes will be the continuation of making the province more naturally drought resilient — helping to prevent floods and improve water quality.

On Jan. 16, it announced the awarding of eight grants, including one for $416,784 to the Oldman Watershed Council.

The council, which monitors the Oldman River Basin, is receiving the money for a project called Recovering Natural and Community Assets in the Oldman Watershed.

“The project will focus on natural infrastructure education and restoration to support communities impacted by drought,” said a government release.

It’s welcome news for the Oldman Watershed Council’s executive director.

“This vital grant will boost community resilience across the Oldman watershed at a critical time when southwest Alberta is facing extreme drought conditions,” said Shannon Frank.

“It will allow us to restore the essential natural infrastructure that reduces drought impacts for those being affected the most — agricultural producers, First Nations and municipalities.”

Provincial Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz feels it’s never been more important. Her government has already put up $46.5 million to address the crisis.

“By working with local communities and partners, we are helping mitigate the impact of future floods and droughts in communities across the province while creating healthier water bodies for future generations,” she said.

The minister is encouraging environmental groups and local governments to apply for funding under the province’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration umbrella.

The next application deadline is Sept. 15.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

Black and white tuxedo cat casts a shadow on Groundhog Day

More winter predicted, more winter coming

It was almost unanimous, but Alberta’s Balzac Billy has gone against his Canadian and American counterparts in forecasting six more weeks of winter. 

The man-sized mascot popped out of a large dirt pile at an event just north of Calgary at 8:15 Friday morning wearing sunglasses and carrying a snowbrush.

Billy’s prognostication contradicts real-life groundhogs Wiarton Willie, Punxsutawney Phil, Atlantic Canada’s Shubenacadie Sam and Fred Jr. in Quebec, who all failed to see a shadow after emerging from their burrows — foretelling of an early spring.

Confusing as it might be, Friday’s prediction follows a fifth-straight day, Thursday, where new daily maximum temperatures were set across parts of the province and our region.

The mercury in the Crowsnest Pass reached 12.7 degrees Celsius, beating the old mark of 9.3 achieved three years ago. The warm spell also saw the thermometer shoot up at the Waterton Park weather station to 14.3, surpassing the 10.9-degree record established in 2020. Pincher Creek’s peak at 14.0 was just over three degrees better than 2021’s 10.7.

 

Camille Kalveram, young professional woman with long blonde hair, on Vision Credit Union ad

 

That might be where the record-setting temperatures end, at least for highs,  however after Environment Canada issued a Winter Storm Watch just before sunrise Friday morning, for areas just east of the mountains.

“In the far southwest corner of the province, rain is expected to develop Saturday morning with amounts of 10 to 20 mm. The rain will then transition to snow in the afternoon.”

The watch includes a forecast of between 15 and 30 cm of snow on the ground by Sunday afternoon.

“Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow,” the weather statement added.

It also recommends avoiding travel, where possible, during the heaviest snowfall.

For the record, there was one other dissenting vote for an early spring — Barrington, Nova Scotia’s Lucy the Lobster also saw her shadow Friday morning.

But then, again, who’s ever heard of a crustacean predicting the weather … that’s just silly

 

We got your bumps and bruises covered advertisement for Osa Remedy'sRx in Pincher Creek

 

You're in good hands – animated ad for National Newspaper Week
Map of Canada indicating percentage of CEBA funding distributed by province.

The CEBA loan repayment — how will it impact Alberta business?

With the deadline now past, the president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce is worried that a large number of her members simply weren’t able to pay off their Canada Emergency Business Account loans in time to take advantage of the program’s key incentive.

According to the agency overseeing the funding, 125,015 Alberta-based businesses were granted CEBA loans of up to $60,000. For those able to repay $40,000 by Jan. 18, the remaining $20,000 was forgiven.

“Prior to Christmas, we did a quick call button survey to see where businesses were at and we had over 500 respondents,” the Chambers’ Shauna Feth said. “Of which, 41 per cent were saying they weren’t anticipating being able to repay the CEBA loan. And that, for us, is a really high number.”

Feth said the key piece for most is the forgivable portion.

“The extension has been applied for three years to actually repay the loan, but when you look at a small business, in a lot of these cases they’re not evening getting the five per cent refinancing. They’re having to refinance at much higher rates,” she explained.

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

Feth said there’s a substantial impact when you think of interest payments on the $20,000 and the additional burden that it places on a small business.

“We also surveyed those same 500-plus respondents through our data research, and out of those, 42 per cent of them anticipated being in poor financial health, actually paying or refinancing the CEBA loan.”

Topping the list of businesses struggling to pay the loans back were ones that were forced to shut down during the pandemic, including personal services, housing and accommodation, as well as travel and tourism.

“Any kind of those industries that had no recourse or a way to recoup their losses,” Feth said.

Even more detrimental in all of this — according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, nearly 50,000 businesses that were granted a loan were later found to be ineligible.

According to the CFIB website, businesses that applied for a refinancing loan on or before Jan. 18, 2024, through their financial institution, qualified for a special extension to March 28, 2024, to keep the forgivable portion. But it points out there are terms and conditions.

 

 

 

Indoor and outdoor view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Torsos of three medical staff with crossed arms. One in a white coat and two in blue scrubs.

Alberta’s health-care future front and centre at engagement sessions

The Alberta government is looking at changing the province’s health care, a system many describe as broken.

A series of in-person engagements began last week, hearing from health-care providers and community members on what the government called some of the challenges Albertans are facing.

Two of those gatherings were held Jan. 24 in Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek. Unlike a packed town hall meeting in August 2023 at Pincher Creek Community Hall, last week’s sessions can be best described as roundtable discussions.

“I think any time that there’s change there’s an opportunity, and with opportunity a chance for folks to participate, to contribute,” said Sarah Murrant, speaking on behalf of the province.

“What I understand, and why we’re running this entire process, is not every answer is there.”

Discussion during the two-hour event centred around topics including experiences and outcomes, but also on a proposed unified health-care system the current government says will enhance local decision-making and lead to early detection and intervention. Just what that might look like is yet to be determined.

Chelsae Petrovic, MLA for Livingstone-Macleod, feels any conversation must include patient care outside of the larger centres.

“It’s extremely important that we look at rural health. That we start to see the unique challenges and some of the unique solutions that, maybe, can be brought forward,” she said.

 

Wedding banquet view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

A former nurse with 13 years in the field, Petrovic knows all too well about the challenges.

“I think it’s great to meet with front-liners, coming from that experience and understanding where they’re coming from. Being able to, I guess, sympathize,” she said. “And it was only seven months ago that I was in those same positions, so I really do understand.”

Some health-care providers at the Pincher Creek event, who didn’t wish to go on record, felt the agenda items lacked details and “weren’t sure what they were signing up for” in any future plan.

Dr. Gavin Parker, a local physician, agreed engagement is important, however.

“I think we have a system that has long failed Albertans, in particular the lack of investment in primary care and rural services. But if these conversations lead towards improving that, then it was time well spent,” he said.

One of the talking points zeroed in on Alberta’s burgeoning population and the added stress it’s putting on the health-care system.

Parker acknowledged there’s more at play.

“I think what you’ve seen in the last few years is not only an exodus of family physicians in the province or people going into early retirement, but also changing the scope of their practice.”

 

 

He said the end result is less focus on primary comprehensive care and more doctors working toward a niche practice.

“Until we train, pay and support rural family physicians better, the situation won’t change,” he said. “The problem is we’re running into a dearth of physicians who are trained as rural comprehensive physicians, and when they are trained they aren’t compensated adequately.”

Parker also noted a drop in specialty practices, like maternity, declining to less than 50 per cent in the south zone compared to when he started his training.

“So, these young doctors that want to provide comprehensive rural care, including maternity, feel utterly unsupported to do that right now because of the current situation,” he said.

The sessions in Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek were the second and third of more than 40 visits scheduled to communities across Alberta.

Although there aren’t further meetings scheduled for the southwest region, a complete list of the remaining sessions can be found online and you can have your say here.

 

Pincher Creek Chamber of Commerce notice of annual general meeting on brightly coloured background

 

Tim Oczkowski, man dressed in warm camo jacket, ski pants and hat, on a cold day in Pincher Creek

Warm spell sets new daily temperature marks

Although not blistering temperature-wise, it was a record-breaking Sunday in almost every region of Alberta.

According to Environment Canada, as of 6 p.m. Sunday, 55 weather stations had either tied or surpassed previous daily maximum temperature records and several more should follow once all the numbers are crunched.

In Pincher Creek, the mercury reached 11.8 degrees Celsius, beating the old 8.7 mark set in 2005.

Crowsnest Pass, not to be outdone, saw its temperature peak at 10.4, replacing the old 2015 record of 8.7.

The Waterton Park weather station recorded a maximum reading of 12.0, up from 2016’s 11.1.

Pincher Creek also had another distinction on Sunday: the highest recorded Alberta wind gust for the day of 107 km/h, recorded overnight at the airport. Waterton was close behind with 92 km/h.

Monday should add another chapter to the story.

The forecast temperature for both Pincher Creek and the Pass is 14, surely shattering the old Jan. 29 standards of 9.3 (2017) and 7.6 (2012) respectively.

Coincidentally, Jan. 29, 2023, was also the date of the coldest-ever minimum recorded temperature in Pincher Creek, when the thermometer bottomed out at -31.1 C.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

Dana Connelly, woman with short grey hair and dark-framed glasses with a selection of Alzheimer's brochures

Alzheimer Society selects community ambassador

Pincher Creek’s Dana Connelly has a new added role in the community. After applying to become a volunteer with the Alzheimer Society’s Alberta chapter, she was chosen by the not-for-profit organization as the area’s community dementia ambassador.

“We’re really here to educate as many people as we can about Alzheimer’s and the different dementias,” Dana explains. “To also help relieve some of the stress of caregivers.”

A caregiver doesn’t necessarily mean a professional and in many cases can be someone in the family.

Most commonly referred to as Alzheimer’s, dementia is a debilitating disease that begins with mild memory loss and can progress to the point where a person may not recognize close family members or be able to carry on a conversation.

“My parents are both in their 80s,” Dana shares. “I have noticed some memory loss with my mother, maybe related to other things.”

Concerned, she reached out to the society to gather more information about memory loss. Part of the package she received asked if she’d also consider becoming a volunteer.

“So, I filled it out and sent it in,” she says. “I was thinking it was a good time in my life where I should be giving something back, spending my spare time doing other things.”

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

As ambassador, one of her first goals is to establish a local caregiver support group.

“I’m hoping to co-facilitate the sessions with a colleague, a community navigator, out of Lethbridge,” Dana says.

The gatherings are likely to start sometime in mid to late spring.

Until then, she suggests checking out the society’s website, alzheimer.ca/ab/en.

“There’s tons and tons of information, and the website is a great place for caregivers,” she says. “For people maybe starting to see signs of dementia or community groups looking to help.”

January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and, as the name indicates, is meant to bring awareness to a disease which, surprisingly, still brings with it a stigma.

Alzheimer’s, Dana points out, accounts for 64 per cent of all dementias and while there are no definitive triggers, experts in the field believe that certain behaviours lead to a higher risk — high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity, among them.

 

 

There are ten warning signs that may indicate the presence of dementia

Memory changes that affect day-to-day abilities

Are you, or the person you know, forgetting things often or struggling to retain new information?

Difficulty doing familiar tasks

Are you, or the person you know, forgetting how to do a typical routine or task, such as preparing a meal or getting dressed?

Changes in language and communication

Are you, or the person you know, forgetting words or substituting words that don’t fit into a conversation?

Disorientation in time and place

Are you, or the person you know, having problems knowing what day of the week it is or getting lost in a familiar place?

Impaired judgment

Are you, or the person you know, not recognizing something that can put health and safety at risk?

 

Pump bottles of colourful, natural soaps on ad for Lynden House Market in Pincher Creek

 

Problems with abstract thinking

Are you, or the person you know, having problems understanding what numbers and symbols mean?

Misplacing things

Are you, or the person you know, putting things in places where they shouldn’t be?

Changes in mood, personality and behaviour

Are you, or the person you know, exhibiting severe changes in mood?

Loss of initiative

Are you, or the person you know, losing interest in friends, family and favourite activities?

Challenges in understanding visual and spatial information

Are you, or someone you know, having problems seeing things correctly? Or co-ordinating visual and spatial information?

Statistics compiled by the Alzheimer Society show that over 600,000 Canadians are currently living with the condition. It estimates that more than 350 people develop dementia every day, and it’s predicted that close to one million people in Canada will be diagnosed with the disease by 2030.

 

 

Solar panel on ad for Riteline Electric in Pincher Creek
Aerial map showing proposed site of Sunrise Solar Project near Pincher Creek.

New draft for proposed solar project in MD of Pincher Creek

A revised design for a proposed solar power project northwest of Pincher Creek was front and centre at an open house Jan. 16.

Slightly leaner in size than one presented almost a year ago, the project’s placement of solar panels is the biggest modification.

“We’ve made a number of changes that we think offer advantages relative to our earlier concept,” said Mike Peters, director of public affairs for Evolugen, the company behind the Sunrise Solar Project proposal.

“In spring 2023, we were in the community and held an open house. Subsequent to that, we’ve done a number of follow-up consultations and engagement with the public, with the town and with the MD.”

A visual change in the layout is the most substantive difference, Peters added.

“Within the quarter-section that was closest to town, we’re going to move [those panels] further north,” he said.

“So, that’s going to reduce the proximity to the municipal district boundary. As part of that, we’ve actually ended up reducing the size of the project by 15 per cent.”

 

 

Peters believes the new concept will help to reduce not only the visual impact but its effect on existing agricultural land in the area.

“We’re really trying to shrink our footprint,” he said.

While there’s no formal plan in place on who might be connected to the power generated from the solar panels, there’s no doubt it’s needed provincially in light of the recent extreme cold snap that saw power consumption result in grid alerts being issued for five consecutive days.

“We see the benefits of this project on so many levels,” Peters told Shootin’ the Breeze.

“We can look at it as an overall contribution to the electrical grid and this idea of bringing on new power generation to meet rising demand, new less carbon-intensive energy. So, we see that contributing to grid stability.”

Other benefits the company feels Sunrise will bring include stable long-term tax revenue to the MD, a rise in the need for local labour during the construction phase and something new to the table — a community benefits fund.

“We’re proposing initially a contribution of $25,000 annually,” Peters said. “That would be something that would be directed towards community priorities, causes, events, as a way to ensure the community is really benefiting from this project.”

If approved, this would be Evolugen’s second undertaking in Alberta. Its first venture, the Spring Coulee project, northeast of Cardston, with a 42-megawatt capacity, could be fully up and running by next month.

 

 

 

Three men sweep as a curling rock moves down the ice

Big step toward new Pincher Creek curling rink

For curlers in Pincher Creek and surrounding area, it was the best possible news — an early Christmas present, if you will.

After months, maybe years, of uncertainty, it now appears a new curling facility is one step closer to reality after the Pincher Creek Curling Club received approval of a $1-million grant application through the province’s Community Facility Enhancement Program.

The new structure, to be built on the existing golf course parking lot, has a current estimated cost of about $3.6 million, which is expected to be shared evenly between the club, the town and the MD.

“We’ve always had money set aside for a curling rink,” explained Mayor Don Anderberg following a curling event Jan. 20.

“So, where it’s at right now … there has to be discussion about how this is going to look going forward.”

Construction of the proposed four-sheet facility will include connecting the club, in some form, to the golf course clubhouse and utilizing the restaurant, now closed over the winter months.

 

 

“Our intent is to make the clubhouse a year-round facility,” Anderberg added.

Because of height restrictions with Crestview Lodge next door, the new rink won’t have the advantage of a second-floor viewing area, as it enjoys now.

It will, however, be able to generate revenue during the five or so months the ice is out with weddings, dances or other community events. Unlike the Main Street location, which has a dirt-based foundation, the new facility will have a solid concrete floor.

Although a large portion of its $1.3-million share comes from the Alberta government, curling club president Hayley Smith said there’s still some fundraising to be done — about $200,000.

“We will be looking for corporate sponsorships to help cover some of the remaining cost,” she said. “Our [ice] plant, which was installed in 2018, will also be moved over to the new site as part of our contribution to the project.”

Asked if there’s any indication when construction might start, the mayor said possibly later this year with a potential 2025 opening, once everything that needs to be done is in place.

 

 

Related articles:

Pincher Creek to build new curling rink pending borrowing bylaw

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink passes first hurdle

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink petitioned

 

Icy sheen on Highway 3 near Elko.

Icy conditions west of Alberta/BC border

Extremely icy road conditions overnight near the British Columbia-Alberta border resulted in at least two vehicles sliding off Highway 3 east of Sparwood.

According to Drive BC, the incidents occurred between Michel Creek Road and the Carbon Creek Bridge. 

Elk Valley RCMP confirm there were no serious injuries.

RCMP in Crowsnest Pass are urging drivers travelling west to use extreme caution.

At one point overnight, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure closed a section of the highway. Traffic coming from Alberta was stopped at Coleman, while eastbound vehicles were halted at Sparwood.

Freezing rain had been in the forecast overnight, but there’s no indication if that was a contributing factor.

Traffic in the area has been reduced to single-lane alternating traffic.

Road conditions in the area remain poor.

 

 

 

Empty lot on Pincher Creek's Main Street.

Taking control: town council looks at developing lots

Pincher Creek council has given first reading to a plan that would see the town take possession of four sections of property on the west edge of the downtown core.

In official terms, two of the lots would need to be redesignated from transitional commercial to direct control, and two from downtown/retail commercial to direct control, to allow the town to move forward on any potential development.

The properties include 655 and 659 Main St. (the latter, the old RCMP building) and 656 Charlotte St., directly across from the fire hall.

“At the Feb. 13, 2023, regular council meeting, direction was given to administration to proceed with demolition of the old RCMP building,” said a Jan. 8 report by legislative service manager Lisa Goss. 

“On June 7, 2023, the motion was rescinded, so that prospective developers would be able to view the property from the perspective of being able to submit proposals for purchase and renovation of the building, in a manner which may suit the town’s needs.”

One of those needs, and the leading consideration, is affordable housing.

The last official community plan, developed in 1993, contained several different uses for the area — retail, office, residential, public and institutional development.

For the plan to move forward, it must go to a public hearing, where residents and nearby businesses can have their say. That’s scheduled for Jan. 22, with the second and third (final) readings set for the Feb. 26 council meeting.

 

 

Town of Pincher Creek town office sign, white text on green background

Search underway for new town CAO

The Town of Pincher Creek is in the market for a new CAO.

While known since before Christmas, a statement posted on social media Jan. 11 confirmed the details:

“On Dec. 19, 2023, the council for the Town of Pincher Creek made the decision to change administrative leadership to better align with the future goals and direction of our community. As a result, chief administrative officer Angie Lucas is no longer employed with the town.”

Doug Henderson with Edmonton-based Transitional Solutions has been hired in the interim and brings with him close to 40 years of municipal experience.

An executive search firm has been hired by the town, at a cost of $21,000, to begin the process of finding a permanent CAO. The hope is that a replacement will be in place no later than May.

 

 

Gavel rests on sounding block on a table.

Bail hearing for Michael Patterson pushed back four weeks

A 35-year-old Pincher Creek man, accused of setting fires that destroyed two buildings in the community Jan. 9, will remain in custody until at least Feb. 15.

Michael Patterson, who appeared for a bail hearing Thursday, Jan. 18, via closed-circuit television from Lethbridge Correctional Centre, is charged with two counts of arson and separate charges of assaulting a peace officer with a weapon and disarming/attempting to disarm a peace officer.

Citing the Crown’s opposition to Patterson’s immediate release back into the community, defence counsel Vincent Guinan made an application to adjourn the matter for four weeks. The motion was approved by Justice Grace Auger. 

Patterson confirmed to the court his willingness to remain in custody, known as remand by consent, until his next appearance, also to be by video link, Feb. 15 in Pincher Creek court of justice.

 

Electrical sparks fly as a building burns.

Arson behind destruction of home and business, authorities say

A Pincher Creek man is before the courts after two buildings in the community were destroyed by fire in separate incidents Jan. 9.

Michael Patterson, 35, is charged with two counts of arson in connection with blazes that broke out just minutes apart at Dano’s Hydro Heaven, at the corner of East Avenue and Kettles Street downtown, and inside a home in the 600 block of Adelaide Street.

Investigation indicated that accelerants had been used at both locations, Pincher Creek RCMP said.

Patterson also faces charges of assaulting a peace officer with a weapon and disarming/attempting to disarm a peace officer at the time of his arrest while fleeing the scene of the residential fire.

Specific details have yet to be released, but witnesses to the downtown fire said they heard a large blast just after 5 p.m., the impact buckling the west wall of the hydroponics business.

Fire crews arriving on scene faced a fully involved blaze and could do little to save the building. Their efforts prevented the fire’s spread to other businesses and homes.

 

 

Firefighter hoses down blaze at Dano's Hydro Heaven in Pincher Creek

Photo by Cary Robison

 

A nearby connection hub that provides Shaw phone and internet service was damaged, resulting in a community-wide outage for Shaw customers that lasted into Wednesday. 

Flames and smoke from the house fire, at its height, could be seen for several blocks east and west.

While no estimates were given, damage to the two destroyed buildings is likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Patterson was to make his first court appearance Jan. 11 via closed circuit video, but “wasn’t able to be produced,” duty counsel Vincent Guinan told Justice J.N. LeGrandeur in Pincher Creek court of justice during a scheduled bail hearing.

Patterson was under guard in a Lethbridge hospital but there was no indication of his condition.

His court appearance was rescheduled for Monday in Lethbridge.

 

 

Power transmission lines against blue sky.

Alberta power grid pushed to the brink

If there was any doubt just how fragile the electricity supply in Alberta is, last week was a good indicator.

AESO, the Alberta Electricity System Operator, issued three consecutive grid alerts, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, after last week’s provincewide extreme cold snap resulted in higher-than-usual demands for power.

It reached an unprecedented level Saturday night when an Alberta Emergency Alert was issued — a measure usually reserved for wildfires, floods and security-related events.

“Extreme cold resulting in high power demand has placed the Alberta grid at a high risk of rotating power outages this evening,” the alert read.

“Albertans are asked to immediately limit their electricity use to essential needs only. Turn off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances. Minimize the use of space heaters. Delay use of major power appliances. Delay charging electrical vehicles and plugging in block heaters. Cook with a microwave instead of a stove,” it continued.

At the height of the alert, Saskatchewan reportedly provided just over 150 megawatts of power to our grid.

 

 

“SaskPower is providing 153 MW of electricity to Alberta this evening to assist them through this shortage,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe posted on his X account.

The leading worry, at the time, was that the increased demand on Alberta’s power grid could translate into rolling power blackouts.

“Albertans are asked to immediately reduce their electricity use to essential needs only,” said a statement from AESO at 6:36 p.m. “Reducing peak electricity demand through provincewide conservation will minimize the high potential for rotating outages this evening.”

Consumption of electricity is traditionally highest between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday were no exception. AESO projected the grid was facing a 100 to 200 MW shortfall in electricity Saturday evening when it issued the plea for Albertans to take immediate action.

The province’s utilities minister, Nathan Neudorf, was also quick to react on social media.

“We are calling on all Albertans to reduce their electric demand immediately to essentials only. Extreme cold resulting in high power demand has put the province’s electricity grid at high risk of rotating outages tonight,” the minister posted.

 

 

A release from the electric system operator shortly after 9:30 p.m. thanked residents for their quick response.

“Almost immediately after the [provincial emergency] alert was issued,” it said, “the AESO saw a significant 100 MW drop in electricity demand, which amounted to a 200 MW reduction within minutes.”

The grid alert ended at 8:40 p.m.

While it didn’t release any numbers on power consumption publicly from Saturday or the previous day, by Sunday, the system operator did say that demand for electricity between 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday, considered the first evening of extreme cold, peaked at 12,384 MW, eclipsing the Dec. 21, 2022, mark of 12,192.

According to its website, electricity consumption Saturday between 6 and 7 p.m. was 11,802 MW. In comparison, it was 11, 669 MW just 24 hours later.

 

 

School buses parked in a snowy lot at Matthew Halton High School in Pincher Creek

Schools open Monday but no buses for LRSD

While classes will be back in session Monday for Livingstone Range School Division students, buses won’t run.

That decision was made Sunday afternoon with overnight temperatures near -35 degrees Celsius in Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass, and wind chills near -49.

Parents choosing to drop their children off at school should make arrangements to pick them up at the end of the day, as well, LRSD recommends in its statement.

The school division hopes to be running a normal bus schedule starting Tuesday morning, with the forecast showing a rise in temperature to -14. Predicted wind chills, though, will still be in the -20s.

 

 

 

"No School" written in the snow

Friday’s forecast for extreme cold prompts school closures

In a rare move, but one many parents can certainly agree with, officials with the Livingstone Range School Division decided Thursday afternoon to close all LRSD schools this Friday, Jan. 12.

With Friday morning temperatures forecast near -33 C, and wind chill values that could reach -50, an LSRD notice says officials chose to “not run buses and close the schools over the safety of [our] students and staff.”

All extracurricular activities, like the Rock the Diploma event, have also been postponed due to the extreme cold.

“We anticipate that buses will run and schools will be open on Monday, Jan. 15, as the forecast shows some improvement,” the notice said.

Updates will be posted to school and division websites and social channels.

Meanwhile, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has announced that many of its rural schools, including St. Michael’s in Pincher Creek, will also be closed as the buses it shares with Livingstone Range won’t be running.

Monday’s outlook is for moderate temperatures with sunshine and a daytime high near -12.

 

 

 

 

Black bear eats grass at the roadside near Pincher Creek

Sharing landscape with large carnivores is challenging

The group behind a project addressing human and wildlife interaction has received a financial shot in the arm.

The Alberta government is awarding the Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association $700,000 over the next five years for its Carnivores and Communities Program.

The concept: to find solutions for southwest farmers, ranchers and landowners directly affected by wildlife while at the same time protecting animals caught in the crosshairs.

“Coexisting with wildlife, including large carnivores, is an everyday part of living and working in rural Alberta,” says Todd Loewen, minister of forestry and parks. “This investment will help protect humans, wildlife and infrastructure.”

Among the group’s initiatives is reducing what it calls primary agriculture attractants. That can be everything from managing dead livestock to securing grain, feed and garbage. It also offers bear safety training for ranch families.

Sharing the landscape with large carnivores can be challenging, says CACP co-ordinator Jeff Bectell. “This new funding will enable us to continue helping our community coexist with the wildlife around us.”

Since 2009, the province has supported this project through single- and multi-year grants. However, the last three-year arrangement ended last spring.

 

 

 

 

Sun shines through hoarfrost on tree branches against a blue sky.

Extreme cold warning issued with bitter temperatures ahead

If there was any doubt it would be frigid the next few days, an extreme cold warning issued Wednesday afternoon by Environment Canada should make us stand up and take notice.

According to the alert, the thermometer will drop to below -30 C beginning overnight Wednesday, but feel 10 degrees colder with the prevailing winds.  

“Air temperatures will continue to fall through the end of the week with the coldest values expected by Saturday morning,” said the statement, issued at 3:15 p.m.

“Over the weekend, morning temperatures will reach -40 degrees Celsius in many areas. Wind chills will approach -50.”

The biggest concern, according to the weather agency, is frostbite. At those temperatures, exposed skin can freeze in mere minutes.

“Risks are greater for young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, people working or exercising outdoors, and those without proper shelter,” the warning says.

Environment Canada is also appealing to pet owners

during the extreme cold snap, saying, “If it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s too cold for your pet to stay outside.”

The extreme cold warning is in effect for all of Alberta.

A slight improvement in the temperature is expected for the southwest early next week, with the mercury forecast to reach into the minus teens.

 

 

 

Silver handcuffs on grey background

Piikani woman arrested, cocaine trafficking charge laid

Piikani Nation RCMP arrested an unnamed 24-year-old female following a Jan. 8 search of a home in Brocket. RCMP executed the search warrant after receiving several anonymous tips through the Crime Stoppers program.

Found in the residence were ½ ounce of suspected crack cocaine, multiple unconfirmed prescription medications and drug paraphernalia.

A charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking in a controlled substance has been laid relating to the cocaine.

The woman was released on her own undertaking and will make her first court appearance Mar. 7 in Pincher Creek.

A local state of emergency was declared on Jan. 2 by the Piikani chief and council in response to the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis.

Anyone with information regarding drug activity or any other crime can phone Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). Information and tips can also be sent online at P3Tips.com or by cellphone using the P3 Tips app.