Canadians crossing U.S. land border met with lineups spanning several kilometres

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Canadians crossing border met with lineups spanning several kilometres
WATCH: Excitement and frustration Monday at and near Alberta’s largest border crossing. The lineup stretched for kilometres as eager travelers looked to enter the U.S. by land for the first time in more than 18 months. Eloise Therien has the story – Nov 8, 2021

Canadian snowbirds chomping at the bit to escape the colder weather for sunnier locales had to wait a little bit longer on Monday, as travelers were met with the longest lineups the border village of Coutts has ever seen.

“Talking to people who’ve lived here all their lives, they’ve never seen a lineup this long before,” Coutts mayor Jim Willett said.

In an area of Alberta known for its prairie views, vehicles dominated the scenery Monday.

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“We thought it would be a little less than this but… they’re backed up there forever,” said Gerard Reinbold, who was on his way to Phoenix.

“It’s been really slow-going, but I guess we can’t help that.”

By noon, some on their way south were waiting upwards of three hours, on the first day the United States’ land borders have been open since they closed on March 21, 2020.

Gordon Bennett came from Revelstoke, B.C. to Calgary, before driving to the border from there.

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“My wife was surprised, (but) I wasn’t. I was kind of thinking three and half hours, probably,” Bennett said while in line.

“We’re good with it,” said fellow traveler Ambrose Reschny. “We know where the sunny south is and we’re heading that way.”

Click to play video: 'US land border reopens to Canadian travellers'
US land border reopens to Canadian travellers

Land travelers must be prepared to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to enter the U.S. and a negative molecular test when returning to Canada.

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Brian Schott with Explore Whitefish says they’re coming off their busiest summer and fall season on record due to a boost in domestic tourism, but are excited to have Canadians back in Montana after 20 months of restrictions.

“Canadian visitors have always been a way of life for Whitefish,” Schott said. “We love to welcome them and we’re really happy about having them back.”

But not everyone enjoyed the sight of vehicles streaming towards the border.

Those living in the village of Coutts say they’ve been negatively impacted by the sudden influx of travelers.

“It was a little shocking,” resident Nadine Clark said. “We don’t usually see that many snowbirds or travelers around here, maybe once or twice a season and that’s about it.”

“Nothing like this. We’ve never had a lineup back to the tracks.”

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Clark has a view of the border crossing from her home, providing her with a front-row seat of her usually quiet village, now trapped in a surge of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“I had to go up to the hospital this morning for a baby check-up, but we had to miss that and reschedule because I couldn’t get out of town.”

According to Willett, there has been one minor fender bender.

Clark is planning to visit family in the U.S. herself and understands the excitement, but is waiting out the rush, and suggests others do the same.

“For anybody that’s just trying to go down leisurely for a couple of days, I recommend them not to.”

“Not until the New Year or at least closer to Christmas… because it’s going to be crazy like this.”

“We expect to have a very, very strong winter season here in Whitefish,” Schott said. “(We) encourage people to come before the busier times of the holidays.”

Mid-afternoon saw traffic slow significantly, down from a peak lineup that Willett figures reached six-kilometres long, but he figures the rush will continue for at least the week.
— With files from Eloise Therien, Global News and Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press


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