Grande Prairie is a city in northwest Alberta, Canada within the southern portion of an area known as Peace River Country. It is located at the intersection of Highway 43 (part of the CANAMEX Corridor) and Highway 40 (the Bighorn Highway), approximately 456 km (283 mi) northwest of Edmonton. The city is surrounded by the County of Grande Prairie No. 1.
The city adopted the trumpeter swan as an official symbol due to its proximity to the migration route and summer nesting grounds of this bird. For that reason, Grande Prairie is sometimes nicknamed the "Swan City". The dinosaur emerged as an unofficial symbol of the city due to paleontology discoveries in the areas north and west of the Grande Prairie.
Grande Prairie has a northern continental climate typical of northwestern Alberta and northeastern British Columbia, classified as humid continental (Dfb), bordering closely on a subarctic climate (Dfc) under the Köppen climate classification. Winters are generally very cold with some mild spells. Summers are often fairly cool to pleasantly warm in the daytime, but nights can be cool despite the long summer days typical for its latitude. Hot days over 30 °C (86 °F) are rare, occurring on average only two to three days a year, which is not unexpected this far north. Winter conditions can vary tremendously from year to year. Winters have been known to be mild enough to produce "brown Christmas" conditions, where little or no snow may fall until after Christmas due to unusually mild early winter conditions.
The average January temperature is −13.6 °C (7.5 °F), while the average July temperature is 16.2 °C (61.2 °F). However, temperatures as low as −52.2 °C (−62 °F) and as high as 35.6 °C (96 °F) have been recorded; the extreme humidex and wind chill readings are 40.8 and −63.0 °C (105 and −81 °F), respectively. The city receives 445 mm (17.5 in) of precipitation annually, including 322 mm (12.7 in) of rain and 154 cm (61 in) of snow. Snowfall amounts however vary greatly from year to year. Being fairly close to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, it can get quite windy in Grande Prairie especially in the spring and fall. Chinooks may occur in and bring winter thaws to the Grande Prairie area. Grande Prairie has 314 days with measurable sunshine per year on average, and just above 2,200 hours of bright sunshine or about 46.1% of possible sunshine, ranging from a low of 31.2% in November to a high of 59.1% in July.
Summers can bring thunderstorms, although they are not as frequent nor as severe as those further south in Central Alberta. Rainfall can vary from year to year, but the Peace Region is noted for never having experienced truly severe drought conditions more typical of Southern Alberta and neighboring Saskatchewan. Tornadoes are rare but not unheard of in the Peace Region and, as noted above, a weak tornado actually struck the core of the city in 2004.
Agriculture was the first economic mainstay of Grande Prairie since settlement began in the early 20th century. It remains part of the local economy today. A variety of crops such as barley, wheat, canola, and oats are grown in the area. Livestock such as cattle and buffalo (bison) are also raised in the area. Despite being north of the 55th parallel, the climate is mild enough to allow for farming on a large scale to prosper. Longer daylight hours during the summer at this latitude aid in crop production. The Peace Country is the northernmost major farming region in North America. Land within the region is still being cleared for new farmland.
Although some oil and gas drilling has been ongoing in the area since the 1950s, oil and gas exploration did not begin to occur on a large scale until the late 1970s. It was in the mid to late-1970s that the Elmworth gas field was discovered and developed, causing the city to grow rapidly until the last oil boom ended in 1981.
Forestry is a major part of Grande Prairie's economy, for large tracts of forest lie to the south in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. International Paper (formerly Weyerhaeuser Canada) kraft pulp mill, opened in 1972 by Procter & Gamble, is one of Grande Prairie's largest employers. Canfor runs a sawmill and lumber yard operation on the west side of the city. Norbord (formerly Ainsworth) oriented strand board plant opened in late 1995.
Grande Prairie serves as the economic and transportation hub for a trading area of nearly 250,000 people. Grande Prairie is also on the CANAMEX trade route linking Canada, the United States, and Mexico.blog comments powered by Disqus