Blizzard in southeastern Manitoba closes section of Trans-Canada, leads to crashes

A massive low-pressure system bringing a blast of winter to southeastern Manitoba Thursday led to crashes, highway closures and power outages, and left some travellers stranded as highways were closed due to blustery conditions.

Trans-Canada Highway expected to be shut down southeast of Winnipeg until Thursday night

Blizzard conditions led to highway closures and crashes in southeastern Manitoba Thursday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A massive low-pressure system bringing a blast of winter to southeastern Manitoba Thursday led to crashes, highway closures and power outages, and left some travellers stranded as highways were closed due to blustery conditions.

"It's a real whiteout here — like, there's snow everywhere," Wayne Anderson, reeve of the rural municipality of Piney in southeastern Manitoba, said Thursday morning.

"We've got more than our share in the southeast corner."

The storm prompted the province to close both eastbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway southeast of Winnipeg from Highway 207 (Deacon's Corner) to Highway 12 due to poor winter driving conditions and a series of crashes. That stretch of highway reopened shortly before midnight Thursday.

Manitoba RCMP said they were called to the stretch of highway after a pair of semis jackknifed and hit the ditch Thursday morning. After that, more cars, trucks and other semis also hit the ditch.

RCMP said no major injuries have been reported in the crashes and the highway is expected to remain closed until 9 p.m. Thursday.

Facebook video from Trans-Canada Highway on Thursday morning:

Environment Canada meteorologist Dave Carlson said the low-pressure system, which originated in the Baja Peninsula, would narrowly miss Winnipeg, bringing only a few centimetres of snow to the city.

"It looks like we may have dodged a bullet with this storm," he said.

But it was different story for the area southeast of the city, where 15 to 20 centimetres of snow could be expected, CBC meteorologist John Sauder said.

The system is moving east and should be out of the province by Thursday evening, Sauder said.

Highways closed

Highways in the southeast are snow-covered and visibility is reduced in blowing snow. The conditions forced the province to close Highway 2 from Highway 100 to Elm Creek, and Highway 14 from Highway 32 to Highway 75 due to poor conditions later in the afternoon Thursday. They also closed Highway 428, from Highway 23 to Winkler, as well as Highway 245, from Highway 244 to Carman.

At 8:10 p.m. on Thursday, the province said Highway 14 had been reopened.

In the U.S. numerous roadways were closed, including Interstate Highway 29, which was shut from the Canadian border to Fargo, N.D.

"There are people, I'm sure, who had to spend the night in their vehicles on the highway," said Bev Buck, who spent the day Thursday with her husband, Henry, storm-stayed at a hotel in Watertown, S.D.

The couple from Rivers, Man., decided to cut short a trip to Florida in an attempt to drive back home ahead of the storm.

Bev says they tried to make it to Fargo from Sioux Falls, S.D., but abandoned the drive as conditions got increasing worse as they drove further north.

"That was not a good decision," she said of the drive, adding the couple decided to stop when slush on the highway got to be at least four inches thick and they began seeing multiple vehicles in the ditch.

"As the rain came down and you could see the temperature dropping … it was like, 'Oh no, this is about to get really bad.'"

The blizzard paralyzed parts of Colorado and Wyoming before it barreled into the Midwest on Thursday, bringing whiteout conditions to western Nebraska and dumping heavy rain that prompted evacuations in communities farther east.

South Dakota's governor closed all state offices Thursday as the blizzard conditions moved in, while wind, blowing snow and snow-packed roadways also made travel treacherous in western Nebraska.

Outages, school closures in Manitoba

Here in Manitoba, hundreds were left without power in St. Malo and south of the town after the storm snapped a power pole in the area.

Due to high winds and blizzard conditions, a number of school divisions closed schools Thursday:

  • Seine River School Division — schools are closed.
  • Hanover School Division — schools are closed.
  • Border Land School Division — schools are closed.
  • Sunrise School Division — schools are closed.
  • Red River Valley School Division — schools are closed; teachers are to work from home.
  • Providence University College — closed.
  • Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna — closed.

In Division scolaire franco-manitobaine, seven schools were closed Thursday:

  • École Sainte-Agathe.
  • École régionale Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
  • Collège régional Gabrielle-Roy.
  • École communautaire Réal-Bérard.
  • École Pointe-des-Chênes.
  • École Saint-Joachim.
  • École Lagimodière.

Calvin Christian Academy's country bus is cancelled, but the shuttle is running.


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