Drivers stranded for over 10 hours on Highway 1 near Canmore after massive snowfall

Hundreds of drivers stranded on Highway 1 west of Calgary
WATCH: Parts of southern Alberta were slammed with snow on Tuesday, resulting in dangerous driving conditions. West of Calgary, Highway 1 was shut down, leaving hundreds of drivers stranded. Jayme Doll reports.

UPDATE: RCMP defend Highway 1 blizzard response; ask travellers to always be prepared for rough weather

What started out as a lighthearted and “pretty darn Canadian” story took a decidedly difficult turn on Tuesday.

In the midst of a snowy traffic jam on Highway 1 in the afternoon, Jens Lindemann busted out his trumpet and played “O Canada” on the side of the road.

“It was a lot funnier earlier today playing the trumpet when it was daylight,” Lindemann said in a video message to Global News late Tuesday night.

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“But there are now thousands of people out here who’ve been stuck, not moving an inch, for eight and a half hours and there has not been one RCMP or emergency vehicle that’s driven by or even walked by to check on folks,” he added. “It’s now getting a little bit problematic. We’re looking after each other out here; I guess that’s the way it’s going to be tonight.”

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Mackenzie Murphy was on her way from Banff to Airdrie when she took the video of Lindemann playing the trumpet.

Close to 9:30 p.m., Murphy said — through her mom Tara — that people aren’t moving and many are out of gas, adding that she is turning around to Canmore for the night.

READ MORE: ‘Pretty darn Canadian’: Trumpet player serenades snow-stranded drivers on Alberta highway

On her way home from the Kootenays to Calgary, Leah Jones said the only road warning she saw was an electronic sign that said Highway 93 was closed — nothing about Highway 1.

She was stranded right outside of Canmore as of 10:15 p.m.

“Both eastbound lanes are jammed with all of us parked here, so there’s nowhere to turn around,” Jones said.

“It’s getting quite cold. I can’t feel my feet right now.”

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She said westbound lanes appear to be clear, adding that some people became stuck in the meridian trying to turn around and start moving again.

Drivers were stranded for up to 11 hours on Highway 1 near Canmore after a massive snowfall on Tuesday.
Drivers were stranded for up to 11 hours on Highway 1 near Canmore after a massive snowfall on Tuesday. Courtesy: Valeria Lima

With cell service going in and out, it’s hard to stay informed with updates, Jones said. She added that when she called the RCMP on Tuesday night, they said they couldn’t offer assistance. Jones wanted to know the RCMP’s protocol for road closure delays lasting more than 10 hours.

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“If it were 15 hours and -20 C, would we be in this situation? They would be hauling ass to get us off these roads,” she said.

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“If it were -20 C right now, people would be dead,” she said.

Throughout the delay, Jones has been turning her vehicle — equipped with winter tires — on and off to keep warm and preserve gas.

“It’s pitch dark now. If we could’ve turned around and been safe — now you’ve got hundreds, if not, a thousand or plus cars… driving in the middle of the night here,” she said.

“Couldn’t book a room if our lives depended on it, and it kind of does,” she added. “It’s freezing out here.”

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“The snow’s just coming, coming, coming.”

Pictures surfacing on social media showed jackknifed semis on snowy roads. An update from 511 just before 10 p.m. said traffic is moving but very slowly.

“The ripple effect of braking and some vehicles getting stuck momentarily is being felt along the backlog,” one of many tweets read.

READ MORE: QE2 reopened after overnight shutdown because of deadly multi-vehicle crash

Valeria Lima was stranded near Lac Des Arcs on Highway 1 heading east in a car without winter tires. As of 9 p.m., Lima has been stranded for eight hours.

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“I was frustrated, of course, because we’ve lost a day here,” she said.

“We just want to get out of here.”

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She is scheduled to catch a plane back to Quebec on Wednesday.

“I’m coming from Montreal — I have a lot of snow also, but I’ve never seen something like this,” she said.

Lima said she couldn’t obtain information through an automated 511 phone call, but a fellow stranded person showed her Twitter updates.

“We have no information here,” Lima said.

“The washroom is also an issue.”

As snacks and water depleted, Lima said everyone is in the same boat.

“It’s kind of a community here already,” she said.

WATCH: Many Albertans face an unpleasant reality as thick snow blanketed parts of the province.

Compilation of viewer video after snow blankets parts of Alberta
Compilation of viewer video after snow blankets parts of Alberta


Vehicles were in the ditches and highway crews and tow trucks were trying to clear them out.

Police escorted stranded motorists to the warming centre at the Canmore high school early Wednesday morning.

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One driver told Global News the stranded cars were being directed to gas stations and restaurants in Canmore early Wednesday morning as the start of the school day approached.

Canmore RCMP said the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary was closed Tuesday in both directions near Dead Man’s Flats, but by 11 a.m. Wednesday, 511 Alberta reported that the eastbound Highway at Lac des Arcs had re-opened.

– With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Blake Lough