Calgary tow truck operator says it will take a week to clear vehicles abandoned in storm

WATCH: The spring snowstorm in southern Alberta on Saturday made for some treacherous driving conditions. Highways across the province were shut down during the night with dozens of crashes and even more vehicles abandoned in ditches. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports.

Drivers throughout southern Alberta were out on Sunday morning, retrieving their vehicles that were abandoned during the snow storm that hit the area Saturday night.

Stoney Trail near Shaganappi Trail was littered with vehicles on the side of the road.

“It was an experience, I’ll tell you. I was born and raised in Calgary and I’ve never seen it like this,” said Ron Johnson.

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Like dozens of other drivers who were victims of zero visibility and ice, he left his vehicle behind overnight.

“Between 5:30 and 6 p.m., it was crazy. I was driving the van and my son was driving the other van and it was crazy. Both of us got stuck,” Ron said.

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“It was scary,” his son Nathan added. “There were some times where you just had ice patches and it was so hard to control the vehicle and we were basically just crawling. When we got up on the slope (of Stoney Trail), there was no chance of us getting all the way up.”

Calgary police said between 5 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 p.m. Sunday there were 201 non-injury collisions, 25 injury collisions, and 45 hit-and-run crashes. Police described the numbers as “more than average.”

READ MORE: Winter storm hammers Alberta, causing collisions and forcing highway closures

Tow truck operators were scrambling Sunday morning, trying to keep up with the workload.

“I’ve never seen it this bad. I have been here my entire life,” said Josh Armstrong with City Wide Towing.

“This is like a graveyard. Look at these cars. There’s probably 20 cars on this hill right now.

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“We will be at this all week. It will take a week to clean up all the stuff for sure.”

WATCH: Snowy weather sends cars into Calgary ditches

Snowy weather sends cars into Calgary ditches
Snowy weather sends cars into Calgary ditches
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Armstrong was pleading with drivers to slow down as he and other tow truck operators worked on Stoney Trail.

“We are getting splashed all over the place. We have guys underneath cars trying to hook up and their legs are hanging out in the middle of the road and nobody cares.

“It’s not the people who are stuck; it’s the people who are driving by us. They have to slow down,” Armstrong said.

READ MORE: Tow truck drivers struck, injured during massive Edmonton snowfall: ‘This is our nightmare’

Outside Calgary, parts of at least four highways were shut down through the night.

Drivers were stranded outside Cochrane after a crash involving four semis and 11 other vehicles on Highway 1 near Jumping Pound. A reception area was opened in Cochrane to help people.

“It was horrible. It hit so fast,” said Shannon Beagle, who drove from Calgary to Cochrane Saturday night.

“The visibility was horrible. When we started heading back to Cochrane we were maybe going 20 or 30 (km/h) and there were times you get so snow blind.

“And you are like, ‘I am not sure where the road is now.'”

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A bus headed back from Lake Louise through high winds and blowing snow rolled over on Highway 1 just west of Calgary. Several people were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Much of Alberta hit with spring snow storm
Much of Alberta hit with spring snow storm

Road crews in Calgary are pausing the spring clean to revert back to winter snow removal temporarily. Neighbourhoods that were scheduled for street sweeping this week are being rescheduled.

READ MORE: Albertans wake up to heavy snow, ‘second winter’ Saturday

While the storm caused a lot of misery, including the cancellation of the Calgary police half marathon, it brought out the best in people too. Some stepped up to help stranded motorists get out.

“It’s really nice — those Calgary Samaritans,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of people helping a lot of people out during a disaster like this.”

For the latest weather alerts, check Environment Canada’s watches and warnings page.

To stay updated with radar and weather alerts in your area, download the Global News Skytracker weather app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

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