Winter storm hammers Alberta, causing collisions and forcing highway closures
A late-season storm moved into Alberta early Saturday, prompting winter weather warnings from Environment Canada and Climate Change (ECCC).
The agency reported approximately 30 centimetres of snow in Carrot Creek and Rimbey, 17 cm of snow in Red Deer and up to 14 cm of snow in Edmonton, as of 12:39 p.m. on Saturday.
This low-pressure system first entered the province Friday night west of Edmonton before moving south along the foothills toward the province’s southeast corner.
Snow first started in Calgary around 2 p.m. and really intensified at around 6 p.m.
As expected, this system also came with strong north winds, gusting up to 82 km/h at times.
That combination of mixed precipitation, to heavy wet snow and strong wind, quickly worsened road conditions in and around the city.
Calgary police confirmed that there were 120 crashes, 17 of them causing injuries between 4:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday.
RCMP issued a warning to drivers around 7:20 p.m. that highway conditions were poor and travel was not recommended.
According to the release, “multiple RCMP detachments have reported collisions in the Southern Alberta area including Beiseker, Cochrane, Airdrie and surrounding areas.”
“Zero visibility and blowing snow is being reported on multiple highways including Highway 2 corridors.”
At 9:47 p.m., Alberta Transportation sent a release warning of a number of highway closures due to the bad weather, saying “heavy snow, icy conditions and strong winds causing blowing snow are creating dangerous driving conditions.”
Roadways affected by the weather included Highway 1A between Calgary and Morley, according to 511 Alberta as of 10:35 p.m.
Both east and westbound lanes were closed.
Highway 1 between Calgary and Gleichen was also affected. Traffic was unable to get through in either east or westbound directions.
Cochrane RCMP said a bus carrying 15 people rolled on Highway 1 east of Highway 22. RCMP said the bus hit the ditch and rolled. Several passengers were taken to hospital with minor to serious, but non-life-threatening, injuries, RCMP said.
Chestermere RCMP said about 30 semi-tractors had pulled to the side of the road in the early morning hours of Sunday after two semi-tractors jack-knifed, blocking the road in the left lane of Highway 1. RCMP said Sunday afternoon that traffic on Highway 1 running through Chestermere had resumed.
Highway 21 between Highway 9 and Highway 575 was closed in both north and southbound directions.
RCMP said Sunday at 1 p.m. that Highway 1 at Range Road 205 as well as Highway 1 and Highway 842 had opened.
Messages on Twitter suggested some drivers were stranded due to the storm’s intensity.
All of southern Alberta south of Red Deer was under either a snowfall, blizzard or winter storm warning as of 10:40 p.m. Saturday.
Calgary likely experienced between 15 to 20 cm of snow around the city, according to ECCC, as of 10:30 p.m.
At the airport, the total was around eight centimetres, but that total may not reflect actual precipitation amounts due to this system’s nature and the strong wind.
The snow tapered off at around 2 a.m. in Calgary on Sunday, but the strong winds lasted until around 5 a.m., which will continue to affect road conditions in some areas.
As of 10 a.m. Sunday, alerts had been lifted in all but three areas of the most southeast corner of the province. At that time, blizzard warnings were still in place for Cypress Hills, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat regions.
Street sweeping in Calgary has been suspended, the city said Sunday. Road crews resumed winter operations with graders and plows after snow fell overnight.
For the latest weather alerts, check Environment Canada’s watches and warnings page.
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