Roads treacherous, flights cancelled as snowstorm hits southern Alberta

A snowstorm that blew into central and southern Alberta forced airlines to cancel flights, reduced visibility on roads and slowed city traffic to a crawl.
Pedestrians cross a busy Calgary street in blowing snow. ((CBC))

A 67-year-old motorist died Friday in a crash on Highway 2 as a snowstorm blew into central and southern Alberta, a tempest that forced airlines to cancel flights, reduced visibility on roads and slowed city traffic to a crawl.

Up to 20 centimetres of snow was expected for the Calgary area by Saturday, with winds gusting to 60 km/h and temperatures plunging to –30 C.

Environment Canada has issued a winter-storm warning for most of southern Alberta.

Driving conditions deteriorated as the storm moved from central Alberta into the province's south, bringing blowing snow and icy surfaces.

A southbound pickup truck lost control on the highway, south of the Sports Hall of Fame near Red Deer on Friday morning, crossing the median and colliding with a northbound truck pulling a horse trailer.

The male driver of the southbound pickup died from his injuries, RCMP said. The other driver was treated for minor injuries and released.

"Travel is not recommended. Extreme caution is advised," RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb said in a release.

Collisions, flight cancellations in Calgary

By Friday afternoon, emergency workers in the city had already handled dozens of collisions. Many evening flights had also been cancelled at the Calgary International Airport.

Roads were plugged with slow-moving traffic during rush hour.

Traffic backs up on 14th Street N.W. at Kensington Road Friday afternoon. ((Albert Arsenault/CBC))

The City of Calgary dispatched 83 sanders to keep the roads in shape for driving, while another 40 units were on standby.

Paul Lapointe, a spokesman for Calgary Emergency Medical Services, said they were putting two extra ambulances on the road Friday night and through the weekend in an attempt to avoid a "red alert" like last Sunday's,  which happened for five minutes due to high volume and car crashes during a heavy snowfall.

"We always like to avoid any situation where we're running out of our transport units, which is what a red alert is," he said. "It's something we don't like to see at any point, so to alleviate that, we're proactively going to add those extra resources."

Homeless shelters expect to be full

The weather hampered at least one attempt by emergency crews to help a patient.

A truck lost control and rolled over on Highway 2 near Penhold, south of Red Deer, sending the 30-year-old driver to hospital with serious head injuries. An air ambulance was dispatched, but poor weather prevented it from landing at the accident scene, so the man was driven to a hospital in Calgary by road ambulance.

Meanwhile, city shelters were working hard to ensure that homeless Calgarians have a warm place to sleep this weekend.

At the Calgary Drop-in Centre, staff were handing out winter clothes Friday and expected to be full for the night.

"Normally, our second floor is closed on a Friday afternoon … so that we could clean it, and we're not able to do that today because the weather is obviously turning rather quickly," said spokeswoman Louise Gallagher.

In addition, an EMS crew patrolling the downtown core was scheduled to be checking areas where vulnerable members of the population take shelter.