Prairie snowfalls prompt highways warning

Heavy snow continues to fall across the Prairies for a second straight weekend, creating dangerous conditions for motorists venturing onto slippery roads.

Heavy snow continues to fall across the Prairies for a second straight weekend, creating dangerous conditions for motorists venturing onto slippery roads.

A Regina couple was forced to abandon their car when it got stuck in snow at this railway crossing Saturday. The train bashed the vehicle, but there were no injuries. ((Kent Morrison/CBC))

A couple in Regina had a narrow escape after their vehicle got stuck on railway tracks early Saturday morning just as a locomotive was bearing down on them.

Regina police spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said a man was driving a woman home on a street with deep snow when they became stuck in ruts beside the rails at a CP Rail crossing.

"A westbound CP train was coming on the track. Both occupants left the vehicle and got a good distance away," she said.

"The engineer hit the emergency brakes. But as you can imagine it's not easy to stop [a train] in a hurry and it hit the vehicle."

No one was hurt.

Popowich described the driving conditions throughout Regina and the rest of the province as icy, and the story was similar in Alberta and Manitoba as well.

Snowfall warning

An Environment Canada snowfall warning remained in effect for parts of northwestern Alberta, and the snow was expected to continue in the region through Sunday night.

Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells said separate weather systems, which she described as being like ripples, were forecast to track from the Peace Country in northwestern Alberta and move south across the province and into Saskatchewan throughout the weekend.

She said they could deliver three separate snowfalls of two or three centimetres each by the time they finish on Monday. Regions further south would get less, she explained, as the systems tend to "snow themselves out" as they go.

Anita Friesen with the Highway Hotline in Saskatchewan noted that it's been tough for plows to get ahead of the game. Once they get a road cleared, she said, it starts snowing again.

"If you have to be out there, drive cautiously, slow down, and remember that with the swirling snow, stay back as far as you can so that your visibility isn't impaired by the snow blowing up from the vehicle in front of you," Friesen told a Saskatoon radio station.

The Alberta Motor Association reported on its website Saturday that highways around Edmonton and Jasper were in poor condition, and that Highway 93 between Jasper and Lake Louise was closed.

Trans-Canada closed in parts

However, conditions were good in the southern part of the province around Calgary, where a snowstorm last weekend closed the Trans-Canada east of the city for several days.

Travel on Saturday along the Trans-Canada just west of the province was shut down in three locations between Craigellachie and Golden, B.C., either because of the high avalanche hazard or because crews were intentionally triggering avalanches to clear snow buildup.

But though it may seem a record-breaking year to many in the West who've been shovelling their walks several times daily, Environment Canada reports that it isn't anywhere close.

As of Saturday noon, there were about 41 centimetres of snow on the ground at Edmonton International Airport — more than half of which hit the city last weekend. That's more than double the average 19 centimetres of snow depth for Edmonton in January, but it's still far short of the 66 centimetres that was on the ground in 1971.

Regina was reporting 21 centimetres of snow depth on Saturday, less than half its 1974 record of 53 centimetres for January.

Winnipeg's record for January was 91 centimetres set in 1956, but there were only 21 centimetres on the ground Saturday.

"The heaviest snowfall amounts tend to happen in the spring," Coldwells noted. "You can get 40 to 45 centimetres in April or May."

"They don't last long, because luckily, they melt. But the ones that fall in January, they're going to be sticking around for a while."