A snowstorm walloped Lethbridge and other parts of southeastern Alberta. Police were advising people to stay off the highways. ((CBC))

Spring had a wintry edge on Wednesday as a snowstorm shut down Lethbridge and other parts of southeastern Alberta, while winds gusting up to 90 km/h buffetted Calgary.

Heavy, wet snow and high winds overnight paralyzed Lethbridge, a city of 90,000.

"Our schools were all shut down. Our hospital was operating on an emergency basis which meant they weren't doing any elective surgery and they weren't doing any imaging programs," Lethbridge Mayor Bob Tarleck told CBC News.

Power was restored to Lethbridge around noon on Wednesday after a blackout of several hours. No serious injuries were reported from the storm.

"Drivers drove carefully. That was nice because we had no traffic lights," said Tarleck.


Lethbridge was digging out from under more than 18 centimetres of snow on Wednesday. ((Submitted by Christine Himsl-Rayner))

About 18 centimetres of snow fell in Lethbridge overnight, according to Environment Canada. Another five to 10 centimetres of blowing snow were forecast for Wednesday afternoon.

Many motorists abandoned their vehicles as they became stuck in drifts as deep as 30 centimetres.

"I live just outside the city," said Dori Modney, news director of Country 95 FM in Lethbridge. "I have 10-foot trees with trunks that are about eight inches across. They are lying on their side in my front yard."

Crews were working on power lines, felled by heavy snow, across southeastern Alberta.


Thousands of people were left without power in Lethbridge for several hours. ((Submitted by Alex Segasayo))

AltaLink, which runs the large transmission lines into the Lethbridge area, could not say when power would be fully restored.

Spokeswoman Jennifer MacGowan of FortisAlberta, which controls the power lines in smaller areas, said about 10,000 customers in a large part of southern Alberta, not including Lethbridge or Medicine Hat, were without electricity.

Tarleck said the city did not declare a local state of emergency but the local emergency response centre was operating at level one of a three-stage response system.

"We had asked people to dramatically reduce their water consumption because we didn't know how long this might go on. And we weren't able to produce any new water so we had to make do with the water that we had and we thought that might be into tomorrow before that was fixed," he said.

Winds whipped Calgary

The storm and unstable electrical service also shut down the historic Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, near Fort Macleod.

The RCMP closed Highway 4 between Milk River and Lethbridge because of poor driving conditions. Police were advising people to stay home unless travel is absolutely necessary.

Calgary police closed Sixth Avenue S.W. between Sixth and Seventh streets — while Calgary Transit shut down the Seventh Street platform — because of strong winds blowing debris from a nearby building.

A wind warning was lifted for Calgary by Wednesday evening.

A winter storm warning, which includes dangerous weather conditions, as well as blizzard warnings hung over southeastern Alberta for most of the day.

With files from The Canadian Press