Manitobans stranded in U.S. by spring snowstorm

Trucks line up along U.S. Interstate 29 as it reopens on Tuesday morning.
Trucks line up along U.S. Interstate 29 as it reopens on Tuesday morning. Submitted by Leland Davis / Global News

WINNIPEG – About 25 people spent Monday night at a community centre in Drayton, N.D., after U.S. Interstate 29 was closed by a blizzard.

The I-29 reopened at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, and Manitoba Highway 12 from Steinbach to the U.S. border reopened at 8 a.m. after the region was walloped by winter weather on the last day of March.

“By the time we passed Grand Forks, we kind of knew we were in a bit of trouble,” Winnipegger Leland Davis said from Drayton on Tuesday morning, where he and his girlfriend were waiting for the highway to reopen.

The storm, which passed south of Winnipeg, closed the I-13 across North Dakota, while the Trans-Canada Highway was closed from Falcon Lake, Man., to Vermilion Bay, Ont., until around 4:45 a.m.

The storm dropped close to 20 centimetres of snow on Sprague, in Manitoba’s southeast corner, Environment Canada said.

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Davis said it took him almost three hours to drive from Fargo to Drayton, a 190-kilometre drive. Usually three hours of driving would get him close to his home in Winnipeg, another 150 kilometres past Drayton, he said.

Conditions were terrible and he wasn’t surprised to hear the highway was closed when they stopped for gas in Drayton at about 1 p.m.

“I’ve lived in Manitoba all my life and that’s significantly the worst I’ve ever seen,” Davis said. “We couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of us.”

The community centre in Drayton is the city’s emergency shelter, so there are cots available and they’ve put up stranded travellers before, said Davis, who estimated there were six children under age 10 among those at the community club.

“My girlfriend and I were pretty lucky,” he said, explaining they were the first ones at the community club and slept on a futon in a youth drop-in area, as did a family that arrived after them. “Everyone else is on cots.”

The grocery store stayed open late so the stranded travellers could buy some food that they prepared in the community club, and as the first to arrive, Davis helped everyone find cots.

“My girlfriend was calling me the unofficial Red Cross greeter,” he said with a laugh.

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