Ottawa on track for snowiest winter in nearly a decade

It's only been a year since Ottawa had the snowiest day on record. Here's a little perspective on how this winter stacks up from our archives and Environment Canada.

Ottawa may be in the midst of the snowiest winter since 2007-08, when 432.7 cm fell

This this week's snow is bad. Check out 1971 and 2008. 0:34

This winter has prompted debates about city snow-clearing and when school buses should be cancelled, but it's not quite one for the record books yet.

Thursday is the first anniversary of Ottawa's last record-setting snowfall.

On Feb. 16 of last year, 51.2 centimetres of fresh snow fell in a single day, breaking the previous record from 1947.

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      School buses were cancelled. There were major delays on OC Transpo and STO as some federal departments let workers go home early.

      Ottawa police reported 120 collisions from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day.

      But, that doesn't mean this has been an easy winter. 

      Snowiest in nearly a decade — maybe

      Environment Canada says Ottawa is on track for what might be the snowiest winter in nearly a decade, though still well short of the record for most snowfall in a single season.

      Up until Feb. 15, Environment Canada recorded 242.9 centimetres of snow at the Ottawa International Airport weather station. 

      The normal snowfall total for the season is 223.5 cm, according to Geoff Coulson, a weather preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada.

      Seasonal snowfall is measured from the first to last snowflake of the season, or roughly from October to April.

      Measuring up

      So the city has already had a snowier-than-average year, but how does it compare?
      Andreas Buchmeier clears the end of his laneway in the county of Mississippi Mills just west of Ottawa in March 2008. A major winter storm left more than 40 cm of snow in the Ottawa Valley. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

      The snowiest winter on record at the Ottawa airport weather station is 1970-71, when 444.6 cm fell.

      The last time the city almost broke the record was 2007-08, when 432.7 cm fell.

      The next snowiest winter after that was 2012-13, when there were 250 cm.

      As the city approached the record in March of 2008, there were reports of 10-foot-tall snowbanks and serious delays for transit and air travellers.

      Environment Canada forecasted between 10 and 15 cm of snow this week.

      Coulson said the long-term average snowfall for March is 38.3 cm and for April it's 11.3 cm. He said it wouldn't take much more for the city to pass the 250 cm mark this season.

      "If Ottawa does end up with more than 250 cm for this winter," Coulson said in an email. "It would make it the snowiest since 2007-08."

      The 1970-71 record continues to stand. 

      A still from archival video of a snow plow digging out an Ottawa street in 1971. (CBC Archives)