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Edmontonians met with 1st snowy commute of the season: ‘It’s crazy’

Click to play video: 'Edmonton sees first snowfall of the season'
Edmonton sees first snowfall of the season
WATCH ABOVE: Winter weather has arrived in Edmonton and, as Nicole Stillger reports, the snowy conditions are something to watch out for on your daily commute. – Nov 2, 2022

Drivers in and around Edmonton experienced a snowy commute Wednesday morning, as the first snowfall of the season blanketed the region.

The snow began falling Tuesday evening and didn’t let up overnight, leading to snowy conditions on area roadways.

Dozens of collisions were reported Wednesday. Just before 4:30 p.m., police closed off Winterburn Road southbound between 62 and 45 avenues, as well as 45 Avenue between 211 and 215 streets due to a cement truck that rolled. Police said road conditions are believed to be a factor.

“Winter is officially here, so we all need to adjust our driving habits,” said Sgt. Kerry Bates, of the EPS traffic safety unit. “Now is the time for Edmonton drivers to prepare to adapt their driving mindsets for road conditions that will undoubtedly become more challenging in the days and weeks ahead.”

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Wednesday brought about the first test of two new collision reporting centres in Edmonton, which opened at the end of September. The goal of the centres is to streamline the process for reporting minor collisions while also freeing up Edmonton police resources.

Read more: 2 collision reporting centres open Thursday; aim to free up Edmonton police

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Instead of reporting the crash at an Edmonton Police Service front counter or waiting for police at the collision site, drivers who have been involved in a minor collision go to a collision reporting centre where staff will help them complete the police report.

The process includes taking pictures of vehicle damage and contacting family members and insurance providers.

Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday, 383 people reported to one of the city’s collision reporting centres — 206 people at the north location and 177 people at the south location.

The wait time at the south reporting centre was about 45 minutes on Wednesday morning and dropped down to about 30 minutes around the noon hour.

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Mylan Worthington said he was stopped at a light on 91 Street at 28 Avenue when he was rear-ended by someone.

“The roads are really slick. Luckily having winter tires helps a little bit, but not everybody has winter tires on the first snowfall,” he said.

“Everybody is panicking on the first snowfall and just learning how to drive to the conditions again. Definitely treacherous and didn’t think I’d wake up this morning and have an accident.”

Worthington was the first person through the doors of the collision reporting centre in south Edmonton when it opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

“It’s handy. This is the first time I’ve used it,” he said. “Not having to get backlogged at a police station or somewhere else or calling 911.”

Read more: Edmonton to open 2 collision reporting centres for drivers involved in minor crashes

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Khaled Massoudi is a contractor with Auto Rescue, an emergency roadside service.

“It’s crazy. This is the first snowfall and every year, it’s like people forget how to drive,” he said. “There’s been lots of accidents this morning and now this is a new thing, this collision reporting centre. So we’ll see how long this is going to take.”

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He brought a vehicle to the south reporting centre, and was a bit unsure of how efficient it was going to be.

“I don’t think it’s the best, but considering how much work the cops have to do and the budget cuts, I think they have no choice.”

Click to play video: '2 collision reporting centres in Edmonton aim to free up police resources'
2 collision reporting centres in Edmonton aim to free up police resources

Thomas Collins was also involved in a minor collision Wednesday morning. He was stopped at a light, preparing to turn left, when a vehicle slid through the intersection and hit another vehicle, which then ran into his vehicle.

“Pretty classic accident for a day like today,” Collins said. “Everybody was pretty cool about it. No yelling or screaming.”

Collins was using the services at the south reporting centre for the first time and said he was fairly pleased with the process overall.

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“It’s been pretty straight up and down, actually. The process looks like it’s well-oiled, shall we say. Forty-five minutes that they gave us for a wait time seems like it’s going to be on point,” he said.

“I think our officers probably have enough on their plates that dealing with minor collisions like this where nobody’s injured, it’s just property damage — there’s probably better use of their time.”

Collins also had a message for other drivers.

“The snow has arrived. You live in Edmonton. Go slow. Pay attention.”

A vehicle involved in a collision in the area of Victoria Trail and 137 Avenue in Edmonton Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Global News

The City of Edmonton said its crews were out on Tuesday night when the snow began to fall, applying traction materials to roads, sidewalks and pathways, with a focus on bridges, intersections and hills.

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“The first snowfall of the year is always challenging, but crews have been preparing for this snowfall for the last few weeks,” said Valerie Dacyk, general supervisor of infrastructure field operations with the City of Edmonton.

Dacyk said all available crews have hit the streets.

“We’re out 24/7, we’re out right now, we will continue to be out there to keep the roadways and pathways safe for all residents.”

When outlining its plans for snow and ice removal last week, the city said it will have more equipment and more resources out on the streets this winter to tackle the job.

“I hope those resources will be put to good use and we will have better snow removal efforts and hopefully satisfy residents’ concerns that we heard,” Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said Wednesday.

The city’s road crews will be in front of city council later this month during budget deliberations, asking for more funding for next year’s snow removal budget.

“The budget conversations we’re having begin for 2023,” pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell said.

“The snow and ice budget, yes, we need to have that conversation and know what we’re doing for the second half of this winter — from January to April. So there’s some urgency to it, but it will ultimately be decided before the end of the year.”

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Read more: City of Edmonton says more equipment, better service coming to snow removal this season

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The Alberta Motor Association started getting an “enormous amount of calls” overnight and into Wednesday morning, according to the agency’s supervisor of automotive services Brandon Klassen.

“It’s extreme,” Klassen said. “Sometimes people tend to forget about what it was like and it takes a little bit for them to get used to. We see this every year and we just want people to be safe out there.

“The biggest thing is slow down for road conditions. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions, so just make sure you’re taking that extra 15-20 minutes if you have to go out. If you don’t have to go out, even better.”

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, the AMA said there was a 10-hour wait time in Edmonton for anyone needing a tow. The wait time to boost a vehicle or repair a flat tire was around two hours, the AMA said.

By 1:30 p.m., the wait time for a tow spiked to about 25 hours, but Klassen said people who were in emergency situations, stuck on the side of a road, were being attended to within one to three hours.

“We’ve called in every resource possible to come in and help us and extra staff is working around the clock to clear up the backlog,” he said.

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Read more: Edmonton, central Alberta to receive first big snowfall of the season

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Snowfall warnings remained in place for much of central and southern Alberta Wednesday morning. While Edmonton was not included in that warning, areas directly south and east of the city were included.

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