Winnipeg’s mayor said employers who can let their employees go home early or not work at all Friday would be a big help to the City.
In an update to media after 11 a.m. Friday, Mayor Brian Bowman said the city is asking ‘Peggers to avoid all non-essential travel on Winnipeg roads to help keep things clear for emergency responders.
The main arteries in Winnipeg were in decent shape on Friday morning as a storm system from the south pounded southern and central Manitoba.
However, gusty winds and heavy snow downed trees and power lines alike, leaving more than 27,000 customers without power at about 7:30 a.m., including 18,000 without power inside the city, according to Manitoba Hydro.
By 2 p.m. Hydro said they were dealing with some 50,000 outages across the province and more than 27,000 in Winnipeg alone.
Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen told 680 CJOB some customers can expect to be without power until Sunday.
Kelly Dennison of the Winnipeg Police Service said police are at major intersections where lights are out, but they can’t be at every intersection.
City crews were working to fix traffic light outages at 24 intersections across Winnipeg by 3 p.m.
Manitoba Hydro said crews worked through the night to restore power, but the company anticipated more outages throughout Friday.
“We have additional staff and private contractors getting ready to go, not only in Winnipeg but in rural Manitoba,” said Owen.
“With so much snow on the leaves, we have a number of branches that are breaking or draping over our power lines.”
By 11:15 a.m. Hydro said it was no longer able to provide estimated restoration times due to the worsening weather conditions.
People who see a downed line or sparking transformer should stay away, he added, noting that the risk of being electrocuted is not worth a video or photo for social media.
Ice on the power lines in rural Manitoba will likely plague crews and communities today, said Owen, noting crews would start to repair and clear lines at dawn.
The storm’s duration is making things challenging for crews, said Owen.
“This storm has come in, and it’s stopped. It’s not blowing through,” he said.
“It’s just sitting on top of us, creating additional damage.”
Downed branches were reported throughout the city, especially on side streets with older trees, blocking traffic on some major streets, like this tree on Jubilee Avenue.
One listener told 680 CJOB “Munroe Avenue is a war zone. I stopped counting downed trees at 15 …. between Henderson and Watt.”
Allen said the city’s 311 services has received about 700 calls about downed trees and branches since Thursday night.
“We’ve got all hands on deck for our crews being out there, clearing those branches and trees from the roadway and boulevards.”
The City of Winnipeg said they opened their emergency operations centre Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. and are determining which downed trees are causing the most problems.
Highways were reportedly snow-packed and slippery. Many routes west of Winnipeg were closed, including Highway 1 which was closed from Headingley to Brandon by 11 p.m. The latest highways information is available at Manitoba 511.
For those heading into North Dakota, the US highway patrol says it’s not a good idea.
City of Winnipeg snow-clearing crews were out overnight removing snow from Priority 1 streets, leaving the main roads in good shape for the morning commute. Side streets, however, were slushy and slippery.
“City crews will continue to plow collector streets and bus routes this morning and spread salt on main routes as needed to improve traction on roadways throughout the day,” the city said in a statement.
“The main routes are looking — they’re still snow covered and slushy, but they’re looking not too bad,” said Ken Allen with public works.
City trucks moved onto Priority 2 streets at about 10 a.m., he said.
The city also noted that Winnipeg Transit buses were experiencing delays and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service was dealing with longer response times.
“WFPS has experienced more than double its normal call volume in that span, receiving over 750 calls for assistance,” the city said.
Fire crews responded to more than 342 calls for problems related to hydro lines — including two structure fires — since Thursday, the city said Friday afternoon.
City-run recreational facilities and libraries were all closed early at 2 p.m., and any activities planned at the centres Friday were cancelled. The facilities will remain closed Saturday.
Not surprisingly the 311 call centre was experiencing higher than normal call volumes, with an average wait time of roughly one hour and 44 minutes by 12:20 p.m. Friday.
Due to power outages, the Assiniboine Park Zoo closed to visitors, and Manitoba Public Insurance’s Main Street Service Centre also closed.
The University of Manitoba said several buildings on their Fort Garry campus were without power, and Canadian Mennonite University closed for the day, also due to power failures.
Red River College said both of its Winnipeg campuses would close at 2 p.m. Friday and all evening classes have be cancelled.
All recreation services and weekend activities planned at either campus have also been cancelled, and all tests and exams scheduled for Friday night or over the weekend will be rescheduled.
Some flights were cancelled at Richardson International Airport, and the Winnipeg Airport Authority said those hoping to leave the city for Thanksgiving may be out of luck.
Reader Michael Ty sent Global News a video of a possible power transformer that appeared to be exploding in the West End.
Local photographer Dan Harper tweeted out a similar video.
Global News weather specialist Kahla Shae said Winnipeg will see the worst of the weather through the day, with 10-20 cm of snow expected and wind gusts up to 70 km/h.
To the east of the city, communities will see more rain than snow, but windier conditions gusting up to 100 km/h.
West of Winnipeg will be hit hardest, with Portage la Prairie and communities south of that city to see up to 50 cm today through the evening.
Manitoba Public Insurance spokesperson Brian Smiley told Global News the insurer had around 600 claims filed by the end of the business day Thursday, and another 200 opened by around 11 a.m. Friday. Weather was definitely a factor in collision counts, he said.
Manitoba CAA reported nearly 400 rescues across the province Thursday and spokesperson Alan MacPherson said CAA crews had already been to 200 rescues by around 11 a.m. Friday.
It’s too early to say what impact the storm will have on Manitoba’s harvest, which is about 70 per cent complete.
Manitoba Agriculture spokeswoman Anastasia Kubinec says if the weather clears it’s possible farmers might still be able to salvage what’s still in the fields.
Still, the weather didn’t stop some people from having fun after Kade Prud’homme and Aidan Wuerfel decided to break out the sticks on Thursday night during a traffic jam on Centreport Way.
–With files from The Canadian Press
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