Manitobans made things a little easier on health-care workers during the storm Wednesday by staying close to home.
Dr. Rob Grierson, chief medical officer of emergency services for Shared Health, told 680 CJOB that call volumes for rural services were much lower than anticipated during the blizzard — and that proactive road closures and being prepared may have saved lives.
“The call volumes into our medical transportation centre in Brandon have actually been quite low, which is fantastic to hear,” Grierson said.
“This storm didn’t come out of the blue. I think people were prepared for it and people have actually been staying home, which is fantastic.”
Read more: Rural Manitobans weathering spring snowstorm
Grierson said there wasn’t a single medical call relating to a crash between midnight and mid-afternoon Wednesday — a by-product of closures to Manitoba highways.
Those who needed assistance during the first day of the storm were still calling 911, however, and Grierson is urging Manitobans to still call for help in case of emergency, even if you think first responders may have a tough time getting to you.
“I hope that people feel if they have to call 911, you call,” Grierson said. “With the highways the way they are, if we can get to you, we will definitely get to you. It might take a little bit longer.
“One of the natures of 911 dispatch is the call takers would stay on the line with people and provide as best as advice as they could while we’re responding.
“People are definitely calling when they have conditions — not motor vehicle accidents and those types of things, but for chest pains, shortness of breath, those calls are coming in. There’s just not a high volume of them, which is good.”
Shared Health said some staff were being put up in hotels if necessary, and others were staying past their shift to ensure the next group could make it to work safely.
Manitoba RCMP told Global News Wednesday was relatively incident-free, due in large part to road closures.
“We’ve had a few minor mishaps, but I can probably attribute the lack of vehicles on the highways for the lack of calls that we’re seeing,” said Sgt. Paul Manaigre.
“We’ve had a couple vehicles in the ditch, but nowhere near the volumes that we were expecting… people got the message and have stayed home.”
Manaigre said he doesn’t think authorities went overboard with advance closures — and that by acting proactively, it saved a lot of potential trouble, even if snowfall in some regions wasn’t as heavy as originally predicted.
“You know, we’ve had a lot of storms this winter, but a lot of times they would almost sneak up on you… oh, here we’ve got some more snow coming. You find out at the last minute,” he said.
“You can see why the concern was for the potential to be just really hammering the province. And it’s not like it hasn’t. We’ve had a lot of snow. The wind has been picking up today. So imagine the open areas on the on the highways.
“I think the idea was putting the message out and giving people the opportunity to make that decision to stay at home. And it’s contributed to a lot less calls for service for us.”
CAA Manitoba said it also saw a reduced call volume Wednesday — receiving a total of 106 calls province-wide, compared to an average of 400.
The storm is still ongoing throughout the province, although Winnipeg was spared the worst of it overnight. The city landed right in the middle of a “dry slot” that saw a lot of snowfall skirt to the west and north.
Meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Dan Fulton, told 680 CJOB’s The Start that there’s still a lot of the white stuff in the city Thursday morning, too.
“We’ve had about 25 centimetres down — it’s difficult to tell exactly because there was a lot of compaction and there was quite a bit of blowing around yesterday, but somewhere around that number,” Fulton said.
“We’re kind of expecting just more general snow throughout the day.
“Not the intense bursts we saw yesterday morning, but more just a gradual snow accumulating throughout the day.”
Environment Canada says the system is expected to slowly taper off Thursday, with 5-10 more centimetres of snow falling in the Red River Valley, the Interlake and the Parkland region.
Manitoba Hydro’s Bruce Owen told Global News that, overall, things have gone as well as could be expected Wednesday.
“I’m not saying it’s perfect, but we didn’t see a lot of major outages or significant outages overnight.
“We’re starting to see some little outages right now — southeast Manitoba, Lac du Bonnet area, one outage in St. Boniface.”
Owen said a bigger concern than outages has been downed power lines in some regions.
“What’s happening, of course, is with these wind gusts, maybe some ice accumulation on the lines, these lines sort of bounce or gallop, and when that happens, they come down,” he said.