Another 15 cm or more of snow expected by Thursday as snowstorm continues to batter Manitoba
Storm expected to last 3 days, tapering off Friday
More strong winds and snow are expected to blow through southern Manitoba on Thursday, after a storm system gave people a rude awakening on Wednesday.
The storm started pushing across the U.S. border Tuesday night and made its way farther north into Winnipeg, Brandon and other communities along the Trans-Canada Highway during the early morning hours.
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, Winnipeg had received just over 15 centimetres of snow, CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder said, and other areas have seen even more.
Now, double that.
"We have potential for 15-20 centimetres more by late Thursday," Sauder said.
"We are going to see these heavy bands of snow continue to move through, so just hunker down and be safe and stay off the highways if you can."
The snow has been hitting the higher elevations in western Manitoba much harder. Around Riding Mountain and Turtle Mountain, forecast models have suggested the amounts could reach 60 centimetres or more by the time the storm is done.
"There's zero visibility. The snow is coming down sideways from the wind," Deb Bauche, who lives just north of the International Peace Garden on the Canada-U.S. border southwest of Winnipeg, near Turtle Mountain Provincial Park, said Wednesday morning.
"It's hard to tell how much snow we've had. I would say at least a foot, but we've got places where there's two- or three-foot drifts," she said.
"I let my big dog out this morning — he's 130 pounds, and he had nowhere to go. He turned around in a panic and came back. It's wicked."
Snow, at times heavy, was expected to continue throughout the day, along with northeast winds gusting as high as 70 km/h at times.
Travel will become increasingly difficult as the day progresses, Environment Canada said in an alert for the region.
The RCMP are ready to close highways when necessary. As of 7:25 p.m. Wednesday, these Manitoba highways were closed:
- Winnipeg Perimeter Highway.
- Trans-Canada Highway from Headingley (just west of Winnipeg) to the Saskatchewan border.
- Highway 2 from Perimeter Highway to Souris.
- Highway 3 from Perimeter Highway to Highway 83.
- Highway 5 from Saskatchewan border to Ochre River.
- Highway 6 from Perimeter Highway to Lundar.
- Highway 7 from Perimeter Highway to Komarno.
- Highway 10 from Erikson to Cowan.
- Highway 13 from Carman to Trans-Canada.
- Highway 14 from Highway 75 to Highway 3.
- Highway 16 from Saskatchewan border to Newdale.
- Highway 18 from U.S. border to Highway 3.
- Highway 20 from Ochre River to Fork River.
- Highway 20 from Fork River to Highway 10.
- Highway 21 from Highway 24 to Oakburn.
- Highway 23 from Highway 21 to Ninette.
- Highway 41 from St. Lazare to McAuley.
- Highway 42 from Highway 16 to Birtle.
- Highway 45 from Oakburn to Highway 10.
- Highway 50 from Highway 16 to Silver Ridge.
- Highway 68 from The Narrows to Highway 5.
- Highway 83 from Duck Mountain to Miniota.
- Highway 190 from Perimeter Highway to Winnipeg city limits.
- Highway 269 from Fork River to Highway 276.
- Highway 276 from Crane River to Highway 269.
- Highway 457 from Brandon to PR 340.
- Highway 482 from Highway 83 to Highway 5.
Tara Liske with Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure urged people not to travel if it is not necessary — and to check the province's highway conditions website if it is.
"We have all of our crews out clearing roads where they are open, so it's a blanket across the southwestern and southeastern parts of the province," she said.
Transportation staff are working with RCMP to provide updates and, as conditions change, there is the potential for more road closures, Liske said.
Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk echoed those cautions and encouraged people to look out for one another.
"This is the time that, you know what, go borrow some brown sugar from your neighbour instead of going out to the store if you don't need to, and we recommend that as much as possible," he said in an interview after question period on Wednesday.
Snow melt is also a concern for some.
Piwniuk, who oversees emergency management, says the forecasted temperatures for the days following the blizzard are "the best conditions we can hope for" because they will stay below freezing until next week.
Power outages, surgeries postponed
As the weight of the snow and strength of the winds increased, Manitoba Hydro was reporting a number of power outages throughout the south.
After more than 3,000 customers were without power at one point earlier in the day, the utility was reporting six outages as of 11 p.m., with about 568 people affected.
Staff are dealing with a line down near MacGregor, west of Portage la Prairie. Still no estimated time for restoration yet. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mboutage?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#mboutage</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mbstorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#mbstorm</a> <a href="https://t.co/r22DnbcfrF">pic.twitter.com/r22DnbcfrF</a>—@manitobahydro
The storm system will continue to track northward into Manitoba's Interlake region through the day and more outages are likely.
The blizzard conditions have also led to the postponement of most elective and non-urgent surgeries scheduled for Wednesday afternoon and Thursday across Winnipeg's Shared Health sites.
The decision was made to maintain essential health services throughout the storm and reduce unnecessary patient travel, according to a news release.
All ambulatory care appointments at the Health Sciences Centre during that same time frame are being rescheduled, with some appointments shifting to virtual from in-person. Affected patients have been or will be notified, the release says.
The Colorado low is expected to stall over Minnesota, keeping Manitoba in its sights through to Friday.
For the Red River Valley, including Winnipeg and southeastern Manitoba, the majority of the snow is now expected to fall today, Environment Canada said.
It will continue through Thursday but with lesser amounts expected, then taper off on Friday.
Total snowfall accumulations by the time the storm subsides are expected to range from 30-40 centimetres in and around Winnipeg, 40-60 centimetres for the western Red River Valley, including Portage La Prairie and Morden, and 20-40 centimetres for the eastern Red River Valley and southeastern Manitoba, Environment Canada said.
Areas west of Winnipeg are expected to experience blizzard conditions as the storm intensifies. Near-zero visibility is likely in most of western Manitoba by this afternoon.
Blizzard conditions will persist through the night and ease back somewhat on Thursday, but snow and blowing snow will still be an issue, Environment Canada forecast.
Snowfall totals will range from 25-50 centimetres but with those higher amounts over Riding Mountain and Turtle Mountain.
Sauder says amounts in those higher elevations could push higher than 60 centimetres.
With files from Meaghan Ketcheson, Rachel Bergen and Marcy Markusa