By Matthew McCully
This news may come a day late and a dollar short for some, but the beauty of print media is you can still read this Friday morning, even if the power is out.
In this version of A Christmas Carol, the weather will be playing the roles of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
By Thursday evening news had spread across the Townships that some scary weather was approaching.
Through word of mouth, neighbours checked with neighbours to make sure gas tanks were filled, batteries were replaced and food and water was at the ready in case of power outages.
“I never like to get too alarmist on my weather page,” explained local weather expert Andrew Retchless, during an interview Thursday morning. That said, Retchless pointed out that forecasters long retired from the national weather network came out of the woodwork in recent weeks to say that going back 60 years, they have never seen dynamics of this type in an upcoming storm.
“The ominous forecasts are based on statistical reality,” Retchless said.
Simply put, a massive low-pressure system was scheduled to collide with a massive high-pressure system, resulting in a mixed bag of precipitation, fluctuating temperatures and extremely high winds overnight from Thursday into Friday.
“That, with the condition of our aging forests, is Hydro Armageddon,” Retchless said.
“If these winds materialize, there will be rural areas without power, potentially for days.”
Retchless did add that wind forecasts are fickle, but across the board confidence was high among experts that a high wind event would pass through the territory.
According to Retchless, the western slopes of local mountain ranges are likely to be hardest hit, including the western side in areas like Sutton, Memphremagog and Hereford could see wind gusts of between 100-115km/h.
In valleys, wind will also be stronger than normal, around 90km/h, he said.
Retchless predicted the first phase of the storm to start around 8 p.m. Thursday.
Then temperatures were expected to warm and transition to a mix of sleet and freezing rain after midnight.
A high wind period was expected to take place between 1 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friday, peaking around 4 or 5 a.m.
Friday morning readers will be able to speak to the accuracy of the ghost of weather past, but Retchless said the extreme weather was expected to continue Friday afternoon.
You see, during the warm windy period, Retchless said wind would hit anything on the ground like a blow torch. But once the cold front comes through later in the day, it would be like a freight train. “I wouldn’t want to be out on the road. All that water is going to freeze in 30 minutes,” Retchless said, looking at Friday afternoon.
Compounding the issue, Retchless said, is the fact that the wind on the way is blowing in the opposite direction of the normal weather patterns in the region.
“Not a tree in the Townships that has grown leaning that way,” he said, wondering how forests will fare.
When asked how the upcoming forecast compared to the ice storm of 1998, Retchless said the ice storm was the result of three different waves of freezing rain, which led to widespread devastation. The wind and precipitation expected in the coming days is likely to affect smaller pockets, he said.
“Stay away from forested areas,” he cautioned.
Speaking to the ghost of weather future, Retchless said the long-range forecast was calling for freezing rain on New Year’s, but that could change in the coming days.
“This is going to be a winter,” he predicted, “a lot of storms, snow, rain, ice all winter. A giant roller coaster.”
And for weather enthusiasts, Retchless said an 36 hours lay ahead for Townshippers.