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A sander makes its way through Calgary traffic on Friday as a storm blows through. ((CBC))

Calgary police and RCMP are asking people not to drive unless absolutely necessary as an intense storm is causing low visibility and numerous crashes.

Weather warnings are in effect for most of the province, with an Arctic cold front expected to bring up to 20 centimetres of blowing snow to the Calgary area by Saturday morning.

Between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., police received reports of about 176 collisions, 26 of them involving injuries.

Deerfoot Trail at 130th Avenue S.E. reopened Friday afternoon after a major pileup, reported to involve up to 50 vehicles. Police are still advising against travel in that area.

Point of View

Watch a time lapse video by D'Arcy Norman of the storm blowing into the city, as seen from the University of Calgary, overlooking the C-Train station.

Highway 2 between Calgary to Balzac, and south of the city to Highway 2A, as well as Highway 7, west of Okotoks, were closed after several multi-vehicle collisions but they have now reopened.

"We have had a trailer rollover in the Okotoks area on Highway 2. The Cochrane hill is disastrous as normal out there. Had a multi-vehicle collision that one but again, slow speeds no injuries," said RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb. 

"What we're stressing out to everyone is to just take it easy, and if you do not need to go out on the highways, stay home, enjoy your day."

Flights cancelled, delayed 

Calgary crews were working in the early hours Friday, applying anti-icing agents and salt chips on major roads and trouble spots to help prevent or reduce ice buildup.

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Low visibility plagued drivers in Calgary on Friday, as shown in this shot of 36th Street N.E. and McKnight Boulevard. ((Submitted by Naim Krasniqi))

"If we're not putting material down, essentially the snow isn't melting and as a result, it's going to be freezing. So it's important … to ensure the road surface stays wet when the road temperature is below zero," said Sean Somers, a spokesman for the city's roads department.

Crews switch to a sand-and-salt mix for traction after the road temperature drops to below freezing, he added.

The Alberta Motor Association said waits for tow trucks in the area are already at about an hour and a half.

About a third of the flights at the Calgary International Airport are cancelled, while many others were delayed.

Some Greyhound buses scheduled for Edmonton, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat were also cancelled. Passengers are asked to call ahead to confirm their trips.  

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A forlorn garden gnome outside a southwest Calgary home braces for the 20 centimetres of snow expected to fall in the city by Saturday morning. ((Submitted by Rea Sauter))

Dan Kulak, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, reiterated police warnings that anyone with travel plans should consider staying home.

"The winds will be picking up, especially in the rural areas. I think you're going to be running into some visibility problems with travelling, so really take extra care," said Kulak.

"If you do decide to go, certainly follow the advice of partners like the Alberta Motor Association with the emergency survival kits and letting somebody know what time you are supposed to be at your destination, and the route you're taking and those things, just in case you get stranded."

Once the storm has settled, it will be about 10 degrees below normal in many parts of Alberta, said Kulak.