Officers ‘overwhelmed’ by QEII crashes; travel on Alberta highways still not recommended
WATCH ABOVE: Thursday’s snow prompted a rare travel advisory from the RCMP. Shallima Maharaj gives us a look at the treacherous conditions drivers had to deal with.
EDMONTON — RCMP continues to advise Albertans to stay off provincial highways as driving conditions are said to be very poor after a major winter storm hit parts of the province.
The QEII and Highway 1 are two of the biggest trouble spots.
Conditions on QEII between Innisfail and Blackfalds were described as icy with poor visibility Friday morning, with traffic being diverted off the highway in the area. There were also a series of crashes on QEII northbound at the Olds overpass near Highway 27, which brought traffic there to a standstill.
Highway 1 between Banff and the B.C. border has seen a number of crashes and deteriorating road conditions. At 2:10 p.m., Lake Louise RCMP said visibility in the Banff Parks was zero.
Highway 93 between Jasper and Louise, which was shut down on Thursday, remained closed on Friday.
Motorists who are not able to stay off the highways are asked to use extreme caution due to blizzard-like conditions in some areas and potential snowdrifts.
There are avalanche risks, as well. Warnings were put in place in some of Alberta’s mountain parks on Thursday and risk levels remained “high” on Friday.
WATCH: A local man is echoing the warning from RCMP that if you don’t have to be out on the roads, stay home. Quinn Ohler explains why.
Officers were overwhelmed Thursday with several serious injury collisions, especially on the QEII in the Red Deer area.
“We were running out of resources, we couldn’t keep up with the issues,” said Superintendant Howard Eaton with RCMP’s Traffic Services.
While attending to one of the crash scenes, a sheriff’s vehicle was struck by an out-of-control semi. He was rushed to hospital by ambulance with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
An RCMP officer also had a close call late Thursday afternoon after stopping a man on Highway 28 near Smoky Lake due to the road being under a no-travel advisory.
The Mountie was at Sean McRae’s car window when his cruiser was rammed by a pick-up truck.
“The truck kept going, did a couple of 360s in front of my car and came to rest about 60 metres in front of my car,” McRae said.
“He just about filled his drawers, he was pretty scared,” McRae said of the Mountie.
Luckily, McRae has EMT training so he quickly jumped into action, making sure the officer and other driver were alright and setting up flares. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.
But the 73-year-old driver of the pick-up is facing careless driving charges. Eaton reminds when emergency lights are flashing, drivers are supposed to move one lane over or slow down to 60 kilometres per hour.
WATCH: A snapshot of the conditions Alberta motorists dealt with on the QEII Friday.
Blowing snow caused poor visibility in some areas on highways north of Edmonton too.
In the south, Calgary and surrounding areas were placed under a snow squall watch by Environment Canada, which has since ended. Snow squalls are described as dangerous heavy bands of snow that can abruptly turn clear skies into near zero visibility.
RCMP Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan, recommended motorists “do not travel unless it is necessary.” Those who cannot avoid highway travel should have proper emergency clothing and equipment.
Eaten said two main problems he sees on the roads are people going too fast and following too close. He also believes winter tires are crucial in this kind of weather.
Environment Canada expects between 30 to 50 centimetres of snowfall to hit some regions of Alberta by Friday.
While the snow has tapered off, an Arctic chill is about to set in.
“Temperatures drop to -27°C by Saturday morning. Windchills will be close to -35 that morning,” said Global Edmonton meteorologist Nicola Crosbie.
WATCH: Nicola Crosbie provides the latest weather forecast for the Edmonton area.
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