Saskatchewan sees nearly 5 times more highway closures this year than 2021

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan sees nearly 5 times more highway closures this year than 2021' Saskatchewan sees nearly 5 times more highway closures this year than 2021
WATCH: While people on the Prairies are no strangers to dangerous driving conditions caused by wind and blowing snow, there have been a lot more road closures. – Mar 9, 2022

Poor winter weather has forced the Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways to close nearly five times as many highways this winter than during the winter prior.

Statistics, provided by the ministry, show it closed 384 highways throughout the entire winter of 2020-21.

So far it’s closed more than 1,900 highways this year because of bad conditions.

Read more: Hazardous highway conditions in Sask. due to blowing snow, strong winds

In an interview, ministry spokesperson Steve Shaheen told Global News the 300-strong fleet of vehicles are working to keep highways clear, but there is only so much sand and salt will do — especially during strong winds.

“When there’s strong winds it creates ground drifting, those are the most challenging aspects for crews,” he said.

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Snow will actually stick to the road and crust, which can form more ice and heavy ruts and make challenging conditions even worse,” he said, telling Global News even snow removal crews are affected by unpredictable weather.

And the erratic weather has made life more difficult for Joe Harms, a Dalmeny resident who commutes to work in Martensville.

Martensville is 10 km north of Saskatoon and Dalmeny is another 20 km further.

While he has been working from home to some extent during the COVID-19 pandemic, he still needs to go into work.

Read more: Strong winds, drifting snow leave Saskatoon streets an icy mess

He told Global News he’ll opt to work from his house if driving conditions are bad in the morning.

But the weather can change quickly.

“There’s been days when I’ve been at work and going home, it’s been more treacherous,” he said.

Dalmeny mayor Jon Kroeker said he’s heard from several people in town who told him the bad weather caused them to be late to work in the bigger city, either because they have to drive slower or because they need to shovel out their driveway.

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“There have been more days this year (in which) they’ve wondered whether they should be going into the city or not,” he said.

The poor conditions can leave drivers much worse off than delayed.

The Saskatchewan RCMP received 57 weather-related calls for help across the province between 9 a.m. on Monday and 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. Chad McLeod, the north district commander for traffic services, said speed is often a major factor in crashes.

Read more: Deteriorating road conditions lead to crashes, closures of Manitoba highways

“You look at a speed limit sign and it says ‘maximum 100 kilometers per hour.’ Well, the maximum 100 kilometers per hour is in ideal driving conditions.”

He told Global News he had stopped three drivers earlier on Tuesday morning. One was travelling 123 km/h, another was going 129 on glare ice conditions and a third he clocked at 131 km/h, again on glare ice.

His advised drivers to check weather reports, advise someone when are where you are traveling and to keep supplies in your vehicle in case you are stranded.

Above all, he said people should slow down and be mindful of highway conditions.

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