Winterlude becomes waterlude on final day
Melting ice sculptures and a slushy canal greet festivalgoers on Family Day
The final day of Winterlude looked more like waterlude as the temperature rose to 6 C and rain began to fall Monday afternoon.
The snow and ice sculptures looked a little less defined, and some had already lost parts, as people packed Confederation Park to take one last look.
According to Environment Canada, the average high for Feb. 19 is –3.6 C.
The agency also issued a rainfall warning, with up to 50 mm expected to fall across the National Capital Region by Wednesday morning.
"We're never going to be able to control the weather and that's true even if we did move it up," said Nathalie Huneault, spokesperson with Canadian Heritage, who said there aren't any plans to move the winter festival earlier in the year.
"You never know when you can get a warm front or a cold front or whatever. So, I think the fact of the matter is that we always have plans in place to ensure that we have activities to offer even if it is a contingency plan."
The warmth may also have been a draw for families, with both Confederation Park and the canal busy. Long lines to see the ice sculptures — and grab a beavertail — continued into the afternoon.
"It's clear the sites were jam packed for all three weekends. This weekend was very, very busy and we're confident we far exceeded our average guests," Huneault said, adding that the winter festival's average attendance is around 600,000.
Winterlude or Waterlude? On the final day, sculptures at Confederation Park are melting with the current 4C temperature. 10-20mm of rain also expected by tomorrow morning <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://t.co/gyKQU4JJkJ">pic.twitter.com/gyKQU4JJkJ</a>—@KimberleyMolina
Festival attendees were prepared to just roll with the weather.
"I'm taking what we can get right now with the sun and enjoying the last day here," said Janet Oommen who was attending her first Winterlude after moving to Ottawa from Syracuse, N.Y.
Canal closing "temporarily"
The warm weather wasn't great for anyone trying to get in a holiday skate on the Rideau Canal.
Despite being swept and partly flooded by the NCC overnight Sunday, conditions on the entire skateway were slushy.
"I'm usually a good skater but I can't skate on this. You keep falling through a little bit, but there's nothing you can do. You can just come out and enjoy yourself," said Trevor Bresee, who was out for his first time this season with his daughter Brittney.
The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RideauCanal?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RideauCanal</a> Skateway will close temporarily tonight, Feb. 19, at 10 pm as expected mild weather and precipitations will erode the ice surface. We want to preserve the ice to reopen the Skateway as soon as possible. <a href="https://t.co/coIYunuKKw">https://t.co/coIYunuKKw</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ottawa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ottawa</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://t.co/3rjw7UexQA">pic.twitter.com/3rjw7UexQA</a>—@NCC_Skateway
The warm weather and impending rain means the skateway closed temporarily at 10 p.m. Monday, but whether it will reopen at all this season is still up in the air.
"We're not there yet, potentially it may or it may not." said Bruce Devine, senior manager with the Rideau Canal Skateway.
"If we look at the long-term forecast toward late next week, the cold is coming back, at least during the evening. So, if we can [get through] the week, who knows? Possibly we can remain open."
He said the integrity of the ice is still good, but it depends on the ice thickness — at least 30 cm is required — and the ice needs to remain compact and free of bubbles.
The NCC will likely make a decision by the end of the week.
Devine still considers this season a success. The canal has been open 45 days, including 35 skating days.
That's significantly better than two years ago when the canal closed after being open for 18 days of skating.