Emergency alert ends after dozens of crashes shut down Trans-Canada Highway in Alberta for hours

A series of multi-vehicle pileups shut down Highway 1 in both directions near Canmore, Alta., on Wednesday with reports of up to 40 vehicles in the ditch due to snow and icy roads.

8 people taken to hospital as poor road and weather conditions lead to lengthy delays

Chris Anhorn shared this photo with CBC News showing emergency vehicles on scene near some of the crashes on the Trans-Canada Highway Wednesday afternoon. (Chris Anhorn)

A series of multi-vehicle pileups shut down Highway 1 in both directions near Canmore, Alta., on Wednesday with reports of up to 40 vehicles in the ditch due to snow and icy roads.

The province issued a critical emergency alert at 6:50 p.m., warning of dangerous highway conditions on Highway 1 between Canmore and Cochrane, west of Calgary. The alert was cancelled shortly after 9 p.m.

The agency told drivers trapped on the highway to shelter in place.

RCMP said at 4:25 p.m. that traffic was being turned around at Dead Man's Flats, and they were advising drivers to stay off the Trans-Canada. 

The highway reopened at 9 p.m., but RCMP said drivers were being warned to stay off Highways 1 and 2 until conditions improved. 

EMS said eight people were taken to hospital, including three children, all of whom are in stable non-life-threatening condition.

Five ambulances took the patients to hospitals in Canmore and Calgary, EMS said.

Road and weather conditions were poor, leading to lengthy delays, police said.

A flipped vehicle on eastbound Highway 1, west of Exshaw, Alta., on Wednesday afternoon. (Chantel Westguard)

One driver told CBC News they had been sitting at a standstill for nearly an hour as of 4:30 p.m., while another said other cars on the road were sliding toward the ditch. A photo shared with CBC News showed a jackknifed semi behind a long line of vehicles.

"Cars were literally just flying off the road," said Chantel Westguard, who drove through the impacted stretch of highway around 4 p.m.

She said she saw at least three major crashes, and cars slowing down approaching the pileups were flying into the ditch.

"There were a couple accidents that definitely, you know, did not look very good."

Emergency crews were on scene.

Exshaw fire chief Rick Lyster tweeted that there were serious multi-vehicle collisions requiring hydraulic tools for extraction, and that first responders vehicles were being rear-ended.

"Don't drive if you don't [have] to," he wrote.

Alberta Transportation said Highway 1X and Highway 1A were available as detours, but they were backed up as well.

One driver shared this photo of vehicles at a standstill, with heavy snow coming down on Highway 1 westbound, past Lac Des Arcs around 4:30 p.m. He said cars behind him were sliding toward the ditch. (J.S. Ryu)

A snowfall warning for Canmore and Kananaskis called for up to 10 centimetres to fall Wednesday evening.

Environment Canada said the heavy snowfall would cause poor visibility, and suggested drivers prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions.

The heavy snowfall was expected to move south over the course of the evening and taper off overnight.

Airdrie RCMP said the severe weather was causing extremely poor visibility and slippery conditions across southern Alberta, and suggested travel be avoided if possible.

With files from the Canadian Press, Dave Will


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