UPDATE: The freezing rain warning was dropped early Wednesday morning.
One day after Alberta was gripped by wind chills of -30, the temperature has soared to the freezing point, resulting in a freezing rain risk in areas west and east of Edmonton, including in the city.
Environment Canada issued freezing rain warnings just before noon Tuesday for areas northwest, west and southwest of Edmonton.
The national weather agency said an area of rain developed near Edson and Whitecourt and was expected to move southeastward through Tuesday. Rain falling onto cold, snow-covered surfaces may result in slippery conditions.
For a complete list of areas in Alberta under a weather warning, watch or special weather advisory, click here.
The icy conditions created by the freezing rain are likely to blame for a school bus flipping on its side east of Edmonton on Tuesday afternoon. A spokesperson for Elk Island Public Schools told Global News the bus was heading down a hill in Lamont County and slowing down to stop when it went off the road. Ten children were on the bus at the time but no injuries were reported.
The spokesperson said the bus was evacuated and parents were notified. They added the incident unfolded near a bus stop so some parents were already there when the bus flipped on its side. The RCMP later confirmed icy conditions are believed to have played a role in the crash.
On Tuesday evening, Elk Island Public Schools tweeted it was cancelling all buses on all routes for Wednesday morning because of the dangerous road conditions caused by the freezing rain. A decision had yet to be made about whether buses will run in the afternoon. Elk Island Catholic Schools also tweeted it was cancelling all morning school buses because of unsafe road conditions and that it had yet to decide about afternoon buses.
North of the city, Sturgeon Public School Division said it would be cancelling some of its bus routes on Wednesday because of road conditions. The school division said it would be updating its website with which routes are being cancelled so parents and students can check online.
Slips and falls
Alberta Health Services said there was a huge spike in calls Tuesday afternoon about people falling on ice in Edmonton.
“On a typical winter day, Alberta Health Services will typically respond to five or six calls for environmentally related falls,” public education officer for AHS EMS, Alex Campbell, said.
“Yesterday in Edmonton Metro (does not include surrounding areas), paramedics responded to 89 calls for slips or falls due to icy conditions,” he said on Wednesday.
“These are mostly slips and falls on ice and these injuries can actually be pretty bad. The people that are generally slipping and falling on ice are a little bit of a younger demographic — 20s, 30s, 40s — and they can have pretty serious injuries,” Campbell said.
“Things like hitting their head and getting a head injury, broken bones. Just really bad injuries that can lead you in the hospital for quite a long time.”
As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, EMS had received 56 fall-related calls.
Campbell said normally calls about falls relate to people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, but on particularly slick days, the demographic shifts to younger adults. Kids seem to be OK, Campbell said, since they’re agile and closer to the ground.
“When we have weather like this, the biggest difficulty is transitions. People that are getting out of their vehicles or they’re getting out of the building and even walking on the sidewalk. They go from a dry part to an icy part and that’s when they have a slip and fall.”
What’s with this weather?
Global Edmonton meteorologist Jesse Beyer said freezing rain during the day combined with possible overnight snow could make driving difficult on Wednesday, especially on highways west of Edmonton.
Beyer didn’t expect city streets to be affected as much during the day due to the city being warmer than rural areas. However, overnight driving in Edmonton could be an issue, he said.
The City of Edmonton said it had sanding and salting trucks out on the road on Tuesday. However, the city wasn’t able to put down anti-icing agent because the rain falling in the area Tuesday afternoon would cause the substance to run off the roads, into the gutters and eventually into the river.
The city was filling community sandboxes on Tuesday and encouraged Edmontonians to also get out and sand.
On Tuesday night, Edmonton police said 44 collisions had been reported to them between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Of those crashes, nine were hit and runs and 35 resulted in property damage. No injuries were reported as a result of any of the collisions.
One of the best ways to track locally hazardous driving conditions is from local viewer reports. The #yegtraffic hashtag is often used by Twitter users reporting traffic issues within Edmonton.
Want your weather on the go? Download Global News’ Skytracker weather app for iPhone, iPad and Android.
— With files from Global’s Sarah Kraus