RCMP warn Alberta motorists off northern roads Sunday

Police in northern Alberta issued an advisory for motorists to avoid a number of highways Sunday due to poor conditions.
This webcam image taken Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. MT shows Highway 881, two kilometres south of Conklin Access, near Meadow Creek in northern Alberta. (Alberta Motor Association)

Police in northern Alberta issued an advisory for motorists to avoid a number of highways Sunday morning due to poor conditions.

Lac La Biche RCMP Const. Chris Clark initially said the following highways were in extremely poor condition early Sunday and drivers should avoid them:

  • Highway 881
  • Highway 36
  • Highway 55 East
  • Highway 55 West
  • Highway 663
  • Highway 858

"There is heavy snow fall and strong winds that are reducing visibility and causing drifting," Clark said in a written statement at 6 a.m. MT.

"Roads have a significant amount of accumulation present as well in the driving lanes making travel hazardous."

Clark said a number of cars ended up off the road in ditches overnight.

Lac La Biche RCMP asked drivers to postpone their planned travels until at least early afternoon Sunday, at which time crews would have had a chance to clear and maintain roads, and conditions were expected to improve.

At 12:20 p.m. MT, police said the highways were in "fair" winter driving condition, with snow-covered sections and patches of black ice.

Last week, the Government of Alberta reminded drivers to pay attention to winter road conditions by posting a video of a dramatic accident recorded by a police cruiser's dashboard camera. The video shows a pickup truck hitting a patch of black ice, hitting a guardrail, and flipping over into a ditch.

A number of accidents on northern highways have resulted in fatalities in recent weeks and, in many cases, police said that poor weather conditions likely played a role.

Road '511' launches Monday

Drivers are being encouraged to try out a new phone service that is expected to improve winter travel for Albertans.

Nancy Beasley Hosker from Alberta Transportation said motorists will be able to get the latest road conditions by dialing 511.

Hosker said similar services are available in five Canadian provinces and in most U.S. states.

The 511 service will also provide smartphone access to maps, weather reports, and information on road construction projects.

It officially launches Monday, but Lac La Biche encouraged drivers to call it Sunday for the latest road condition.