A winter storm wreaked havoc on roads across much of southern Manitoba on Wednesday, with more snow, strong winds and frigid temperatures in the forecast.
Much of southern Manitoba has been under a snowfall warning that is expected, between Wednesday and Thursday, to bring 15 to 25 centimetres across a wide band from Portage la Prairie through the Pembina and Red River valleys and into Winnipeg, the Interlake and southeast Manitoba.
In Winnipeg, city crews began clearing and sanding main routes, bus routes and collector streets at 7 p.m.
As well, a snow route parking ban begins at midnight and runs until 7 a.m. Thursday. Vehicles that are parked on streets marked with snow route signs will get a $100 ticket and may be towed away.
Expect more blowing snow on Thursday, while temperatures will drop in the coming days and "tank" as low as –26 C on Saturday night, says CBC meteorologist John Sauder.
The weather prompted truck drivers like Bruce Allain to park in Winnipeg overnight.
Allain said he left Nipigon, Ont., early Wednesday morning and drove nearly 900 kilometres to Winnipeg before he decided to quit for the night.
"I was going to make it to Brandon, Manitoba, but I said, 'That's it, I have enough.' It's only a load of steel, it can wait," he said with a laugh.
Slippery road conditions prompted the RCMP to warn drivers to stay off the Trans-Canada Highway during the evening, even though the road remained open.
MPI and CAA busy with calls
Throughout the day Wednesday, there were numerous reports of vehicle rollovers and several other cars and trucks sliding off roads into ditches around Winnipeg.
Manitoba Public Insurance says 550 collision claims had been opened as of 3:30 p.m. and staff expected to see more than 800 claims by day's end.
About 65 per cent of the claims have been from Winnipeg, according to MPI spokesperson Brian Smiley, who said it has been "a busy winter day for our contact centre staff."
CAA Manitoba brought in twice as many tow truck drivers on Wednesday to deal with an expected increase in calls.
Spokesperson Liz Peters said CAA staff have handled 250 calls as of Wednesday afternoon, which is more than double the number of calls on an average winter days.
Peters said the calls have come from people who say "they're stuck, that they've slid off the side of the highway, or maybe they're having tire problems too."
The average wait time for a CAA truck was 30 minutes on Wednesday afternoon, but went up to 60 minutes by 5 p.m.
Peters said she expects the waits to get much longer by Friday, when it's expected to get bitterly cold and drivers will need battery boosts.
Meanwhile, the weather has delayed some flights at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport on Wednesday, but no flights have been cancelled, a spokesperson said.
Weather system heading east
The snow was part of a weather system moving in from Minnesota. South-central and southeastern Manitoba will be on the western edge of the system as it tracks toward the Great Lakes, according to Environment Canada.
And it wasn't just the snow. A strong north wind stirred things up and caused poor visibility.
Highways were already slippery and visibility was an issue from Brandon to the Ontario border, said Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation spokesperson Tim Blazanovic.
"We've got partly snow-covered highways. We've got some partly ice-covered highways. We've got blowing snow, drifting snow and swirling snow in traffic," he said.
Conditions were predicted to gradually improve later on Thursday, as the system moves away, but then the bitter cold moves in.
Daytime temperatures of –21 C to –24 C with overnight lows around –30 C are in the forecast for the weekend and into early next week.
Some taking weather in stride
Some Winnipeggers took the wintry weather in stride, like Philip Humble, who was getting chilly while clearing his driveway in Lindenwoods but said it could've be worse.
fall to me is like when the snow is heavy and, like, it's actually hard to lift up."
Snowmobile enthusiasts are also looking forward to hitting the snow-covered trails.
Snowman Inc., a group representing snowmobile clubs in the province, warns that the trails are not open yet, but president Alan Butler said not everyone has been waiting.
"You can operate a snowmobile on various amounts of snow. You see some people out there when the first snow, and there's an inch of snow there out there, but that's not really safe operating conditions," he said.
Butler said he expects some groomed trails will be open by Christmas, but the trail system is typically open in early January.