Late spring snowstorm blankets southwestern Manitoba, leaving some gardeners scrambling for cover

Brandonites are feeling the aftermath of a strong storm that blanketed the city in wet and heavy snow Friday.

The City of Brandon had to shut down most of its spring construction projects and suspends street sweeping due to the snowfall. The snow also knocked down trees and branches blocking some roads and sidewalks.

In a Friday afternoon social media post, Manitoba Hydro said it was “dealing with stormy weather and heavy, wet snow, causing outages in areas throughout western/central Manitoba.”

It also forced some southwestern Manitobans to change their plans.

Brendon Ehinger had planned to host Dronescape — an immersive concert of experimental music — outside in Brandon’s Rideau Park on Saturday.

“Woke up this morning, and there was still snow on the ground,” he said.

A man plays an electronic instrument.
Brendon Ehinger moved his Dronescrape event, planned to be held outdoors, inside to the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

With concerns about the lingering cold affecting musicians’ performances, and the potential for risks to sensitive electronic equipment and extension cords used for Dronescape from the wet ground, Ehinger made the 11th-hour decision to move the event indoors, to the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. 

“Luckily I’ve worked with the art gallery here in Manitoba in the past and they offered their space as an alternate site for just this situation,” he said.

The strong low-pressure system that brought the snow was expected to linger until midday Saturday, soaking the region with 50-60 millimetres of precipitation and potentially causing flooding in low-lying areas, according to Environment Canada.

A big tree lies broken across a road.
A tree is downed in Brandon on Friday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

The rain gave way to heavy snow, and a snowfall warning was issued for Brandon by Environment Canada on Friday afternoon.

Gardeners cautiously optimistic about moisture

Leslie Loader, president of the Brandon Garden Club, said while it was surprising to see the white covering at the end of May, the wet and heavy snow brought much-needed moisture to the soil and trees.

She waits until the very end of May and into early June to plant, in order to avoid any late frosts, but she’s heard some gardeners lost plants to the storm.

A woman smiles in front of a blossoming tree.
Leslie Loader, president of the Brandon Garden Club, says gardeners still have time to start planting their gardens, even if the storm was a setback for some. (Submitted by Leslie Loader)

“That happens every year. We have some sort of event, whether it’s hail or cold or wind,” she said. “Later planting is probably safer planting. I’m always real cautious.”

Gardener Megan Hamill said she’s grateful she covered up her garden the night before the storm. Her raised beds still have greens sprouting out, although there are bits of lingering snow.

“This isn’t unusual for Manitoba. So we usually put in, like, as late as we can, because even if it’s not snow, the frost can come and take them,” Hamill said.

The snow was “inconvenient,” but “I was lucky that I was prepared for it early and I got to save all my garden seeds,” she said.

There are also upsides to the snowfall — the moisture could be good news for gardeners, farmers and forests, she said.

Plus, “I thought the snow … looked really beautiful,” said Hamill. “I took some cool photos of the yard being half snow and half summer.”

A woman stands in a garden.
Brandon gardener Megan Hamill says the snow left her yard ‘half snow and half summer.’ (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Loader said if people lost plants to the snow, there’s still time for things to come up or to plant something new.

“Be patient with your perennials. They may well come up yet, and this moisture will make them happy for sure,” Loader said.  “The annuals, I’m sorry if you planted a little bit early — they don’t like frost, they don’t like cold.”

By a happy accident, the Brandon Garden Club is hosting its latest-ever annual Plant Sale at the Dome on June 1, she said.

The club was worried it would be too late in the season for most gardeners, but “now Mother Nature has sort of blessed us by holding everybody off a little bit,” Loader said.

Green thumbs can swap tips and snow stories as people shop for new plants, or to replace plants ones that were lost, she said.

“Our plant sale’s gonna be right in time.”