‘Best sum­mer in Canada’

Cli­ma­tol­o­gist con­firms it:

Winnipeg Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - RYAN THORPE

T was a Goldilocks sum­mer: not too warm, not too cold, not too wet, but just right.

That’s ac­cord­ing to David Phillips, se­nior cli­ma­tol­o­gist for En­vi­ron­ment Canada, who said the rest of the coun­try would have given up its eye teeth for the sum­mer weather Man­i­toba en­joyed.

It’s the kind of weather that keeps peo­ple out­side, the grass green, farm­ers’ crops fed, mos­qui­toes nowhere to be found, forests with­out fires, wa­ter tem­per­a­tures warm and air con­di­tion­ing bills low.

“I can’t speak more highly about your weather this sum­mer. It’s al­most as if that should be on your bumper stick­ers: we had the best sum­mer in Canada. It’s al­most so good you can’t care how the win­ter is go­ing to be,” Phillips said.

“We’ve seen lots of dry and hot weather in the west, and to the east, there’s been cool­ish and wetish weather. Que­bec and On­tario are still wait­ing for sum­mer to ar­rive and it’s al­most over. It’s as if you’ve been hoard­ing all the good weather. You should send some of it out to us.”

Man­i­toba was the only prov­ince to get the best of the weather on both sides of its borders — the dry heat in the west and the cold and wet in the east — com­bin­ing into a per­fect sweet spot in the heart of the coun­try.

By any pos­si­ble met­ric — pre­cip­i­ta­tion, tem­per­a­ture, warm and dry weather on week­ends — Man­i­toba hit the jack­pot, Phillips said.

“It was sun­shine sym­bols right across the seven-day fore­cast. It’s al­most as if the weather was de­light­fully bor­ing — which, let me tell you, is what you want. There’s noth­ing dis­parag­ing I can say, it was golden. You’ve used up all your IOUs, so to speak. You’ve got noth­ing left in the bank,” he con­tin­ued.

While Man­i­toba had fewer days than nor­mal when the high hit above 30 C, the tem­per­a­ture of­ten sat in the 27 to 29 C range, Phillips said.

“You can drink beer in that af­ter­noon high. You don’t need it 30 de­grees.”

What that means is the num­ber of re­ally hot and hu­mid days were sig­nif­i­cantly lower than nor­mal, while Win­nipeg­gers rou­tinely en­joyed tem­per­a­tures that were warm but not scorch­ing.

Be­tween May to Au­gust, the prov­ince re­ceived 168 mil­lime­tres of rain, while nor­mally it would see 296 mm. That’s what Phillips de­scribes as “pleas­antly dry, not crit­i­cally dry,” since back­yard gar­den­ers and farm­ers still got the rain when they needed it.

I

O one could say Tues­day what might be wrong phys­i­cally with the in­ter­sec­tion of high­ways 1 and 16, where six peo­ple have died in the past 12 days.

The in­ter­sec­tion has traf­fic lights, sig­nage, re­duced speeds and good sight lines — and three in­ci­dents in less than two weeks in which peo­ple have died.

But truck­ers who pass the cross­roads west of Portage la Prairie thou­sands of times value grade sep­a­ra­tion — not ground-level in­ter­changes — as the best way to keep ma­jor high­ways as safe as pos­si­ble — even though they’re aware that over­passes, clover­leafs and other in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments can cost tens of mil­lions of dol­lars.

“Is it op­ti­mally de­signed? No,” said Terry Shaw, ex­ec­u­tive director of the Man­i­toba Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion. “In gen­eral, we ab­so­lutely sup­port grade sep­a­ra­tions.

“Is that our coun­try’s re­al­ity? Un­for­tu­nately, no.”

Over­passes and clover­leafs are ex­pen­sive, Shaw lamented Tues­day. “Is it an area wor­thy of one? We be­lieve so. Is it wor­thy of be­ing the next one? We don’t have that in­for­ma­tion.

“We’re awash with at-grade in­ter­changes,” said Shaw, who be­lieves the Perime­ter High­way has many groundlevel in­ter­changes that the Pal­lis­ter gov­ern­ment con­sid­ers more ur­gent for the pro­vin­cial in­fra­struc­ture bud­get than the high­way 1/16 in­ter­sec­tion.

In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Ron Schuler ex­pressed con­do­lences Tues­day, but wouldn’t com­ment on any pos­si­ble in­fra­struc­ture work at the in­ter­sec­tion.

“Our gov­ern­ment ex­tends its deep­est con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies im­pacted by these tragic col­li­sions. As the RCMP con­tin­ues its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment specif­i­cally on these un­for­tu­nate events,” Schuler said in a pre­pared state­ment.

“The safety of Man­i­to­bans is our gov­ern­ment’s lead­ing pri­or­ity in in­fra­struc­ture. Ev­ery per­son on our road­ways de­serves to travel safely and al­ways ar­rive home. We will con­tinue to mon­i­tor all road­ways and in­ter­sec­tions in the prov­ince in or­der to iden­tify those that may re­quire en­hanced safety mea­sures,” he said.

The NDP did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Man­i­toba needs a com­pre­hen­sive road safety strat­egy, Shaw said. Even with­out build­ing grade sep­a­ra­tions,

NWin­nipeg saw 34 days with some pre­cip­i­ta­tion, while nor­mally the city would see 47 days, which equals more stretches of dry weather.

But what’s most im­por­tant, Phillips said, is where those dry spells fell.

“It was the week­end. Oh my God, we live for the week­ends as Cana­di­ans. In July and Au­gust, there were 18 days that fell on week­ends or hol­i­day Mon­days, and it only rained on two of those days. It didn’t mat­ter tech­nol­ogy and de­sign can help, es­pe­cially any­thing that re­duces dis­trac­tions, he said.

Shaw said that the NDP was con­sid­er­ing a grade sep­a­ra­tion at the in­ter­sec­tion back in 2007, but that fell down the pri­or­ity list thanks to Cen­trePort de­vel­op­ment and the sud­den need for in­fra­struc­ture dol­lars in the wake of 2011 flood­ing.

Shaw could not say how many sim­i­lar in­ter­sec­tions in Man­i­toba have re­ceived grade sep­a­ra­tions. Three ma­jor ap­proaches to nearby Portage la Prairie all have grade sep­a­ra­tions, he said.

Robert Kurylko, a se­nior trans­porta­tion en­gi­neer as­so­ciate with Stan­tec, which de­signs ma­jor con­struc­tion projects, said Man­i­toba has not done a grade sep­a­ra­tion on that small a scale in a long time. It is dif­fi­cult to es­ti­mate with­out study, he added, be­cause High­way 16 ter­mi­nates on the north side while a pro­vin­cial road con­tin­ues south from the in­ter­sec­tion. A rail­way cross­ing and ceme­tery in the im­me­di­ate area fur­ther com­pli­cate grade sep­a­ra­tion.

The RCMP has stepped up its pres­ence in the area, me­dia re­la­tions of­fi­cer Tara Seel said Tues­day. “We have in­creased pa­trols and en­force­ment in the area start­ing im­me­di­ately after the col­li­sion on Aug. 27, and that con­tin­ues. We are also do­ing an ed­u­ca­tion piece through me­dia in­ter­views and you will see safety tips com­ing out on our so­cial me­dia chan­nels,” she said.

CAA Man­i­toba said it’s heard lots of com­plaints from driv­ers about worn roads and flood­ing along High­way 1, but no spe­cific con­cerns about that in­ter­sec­tion. The CAA and MPI both urge driv­ers to be to­tally fo­cused when ap­proach­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­changes.

“Speed­ing, dis­tracted driv­ing and im­paired driv­ing are three pre­ventable causes of col­li­sions. Whether you’re driv­ing on the high­way or in the city, the safest thing to do is to drive to con­di­tions, be alert and be con­sci­en­tious of other mo­torists. Those three key habits are im­por­tant all the time, but be­come even more so when you’re driv­ing some­where un­fa­mil­iar,” said Erika Miller, CAA Man­i­toba’s public and me­dia re­la­tions spe­cial­ist.

MPI has not raised spe­cific con­cerns with the prov­ince, said spokesman Brian Smi­ley: “Driv­ing re­quires the oper­a­tor’s full at­ten­tion and con­cen­tra­tion. A split sec­ond of dis­trac­tion can re­sult in a life­time-chang­ing event.” if peo­ple wanted to go bar­be­cu­ing, tent­ing, camp­ing, off to fes­ti­vals or off to the cot­tage, it was spec­tac­u­lar,” Phillips said.

Ken Na­wol­sky, the city’s su­per­in­ten­dent of in­sect con­trol, is also singing this sum­mer’s praises.

The city had a “record-break­ing year” with “his­toric lows” for mos­quito lev­els.

Nor­mally at the peak of sum­mer, Na­wol­sky and his team will find an av­er­age of 78 mos­qui­toes in traps around the city. This year, the high­est num­ber was 19, which he de­scribes as a “tem­po­rary blip.” On av­er­age, trap counts hover in the five to 10 range.

“We didn’t have a need to fog this year as we avoided the heavy rain­falls. And come these last three weeks, we’ve had no rain which means there won’t be any fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of mos­qui­toes. We won’t see any more of them for the sea­son,” Na­wol­sky said.

Noel Bernier, a share­holder in mul­ti­ple restau­rants in the city, said the weather was also a treat for the food in­dus­try.

Of all the restau­rants he’s in­volved with, the ones with pa­tios saw an in­crease in sales, while those with­out saw a di­rectly pro­por­tional de­crease.

“We’ve def­i­nitely no­ticed it. The amount of money be­ing spent in the city doesn’t re­ally change, but the flow of that money is highly af­fected by the weather,” he said.

“It would have been gen­er­al­ized around the city, ab­so­lutely. It’s ac­tu­ally inar­guable. More money was flow­ing to any­thing out­doorsy — places with pa­tios, ice-cream shops, even The Forks’ outdoors peo­ple, I’m sure, had a great sum­mer.”

No mat­ter you want to chalk it up, Man­i­to­bans — and Win­nipeg­gers es­pe­cially — had noth­ing to com­plain about this sum­mer, even if they’ll still find a way to, Phillips said.

“There’s al­ways go­ing to be some­one com­plain­ing about the weather. Ei­ther it’s too hot or it’s too cold. But you re­ally did have the Goldilocks weather this sum­mer. It was right where you wanted it to be and with those week­ends it gets bumped up to 10 out of 10.”

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Kieran (in ham­mock) soaks up the sum­mer heat Tues­day af­ter­noon with Gabby (right), Darby and dog Coco on Ch­est­nut Street in Wolse­ley.

JOHN WOODS / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Many ob­servers are calling for an over­pass at the in­ter­sec­tion of high­ways 1 and 16 fol­low­ing sev­eral re­cent deaths.

JOHN WOODS / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Emer­gency crews and STARS sta­bi­lize an in­jured driver at high­ways 1 and 248.

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