Just when you thought it might get nicer in southern Manitoba — warnings have been issued about blizzards and heavy snowfall.

Storm alerts

Areas in this Manitoba map that are highlighted in red are under snowfall or blizzard warnings. (Environment Canada)

After nearly three weeks of blistering cold — with temperatures dipping deep into the –30s C and often feeling closer to –50 with the wind chill — the forecast called for a reprieve Friday with a high of –10 C.

Not so fast.

While the temperature rose but also brought gusty winds and swirling snow. And the wind chill made it feel more like –30.

The heaviest snowfall was forecast to be along a line from Russell to Selkirk to Whiteshell Provincial Park. A total of 10 to 15 centimetres was expected in these regions, beginning Friday morning and ending in the evening.

In the Winnipeg area, the main snowfall was forecast to end in the late afternoon and winds were expected to shift to the north, gusting up to 70 km/h.

Blizzard warnings were issued for Steinbach, Morden, Winkler, Altona, Emerson, Morris, St. Adolphe, Dominion City and Richer.

In Winnipeg and close to the southern Manitoba lakes, visibility was also reduced by blowing snow, but it was not expected by Environment Canada to be less than 400 metres for a duration of four hours, which is the requirement for a blizzard warning.

The heavy snowfall forced officials to close the City’s three cemeteries – Transcona, St. Vital and Brookside – at 5 p.m. on Friday. They did not say when they would reopen. 

Blizzard closes highways

White-out conditions on some Manitoba highways forced provincial officials to close them. Highway 16 from the Saskatchewan border to Highway 83 was closed in the early afternoon and wasn't reopened until about 7 p.m. Highway 45 from Russell to Highway 10 was also closed in the early afternoon but reopened shortly after.

Blizzard

A blizzard hit southern Manitoba hard on Friday, closing highways and causing hundreds of crashes. This was the scene on Highway 8 between Riverton and Gimli on Friday afternoon. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

Officials said the highways had to be closed due to poor visibility and driving conditions but did not say when they would reopen. 

Environment Canada predicted visibility would improve in most regions throughout the night but only to be followed by another blast of Arctic air.

Temperatures are expected to stay somewhere between –20 C to –26 C over the next five days.

MPI sees hundreds of crash claims in one day

By late afternoon Friday, Manitoba Public Insurance had received about 750 crash claims, and officials said they had no way of anticipating what the final numbers for the day would be.

Meanwhile, RCMP were busy responding to multiple crashes, including a four-car collision on the Trans-Canada Highway west of MacGregor.

The crash happened just after noon, and according to RCMP, was caused by one driver following too closely to a lead vehicle.

RCMP said a chain reaction occurred, and a number of vehicles collided. They said weather was a major factor in the crash, with snow greatly reducing visibility.

Two people were taken to hospitals as a precaution, but their injuries appear to be minor.

RCMP reminded drivers to slow down, use steady and precise movements and increase their distance between them and other vehicles. 

Officers added emergency response times could be longer because of the harsh conditions.