Storm dumps thick, wet snow on southern Manitoba, shuts down schools, highways

Southern Manitoba is digging out from a dumping of thick, wet snow that forced many rural schools to cancel classes, stopped school buses in Winnipeg and cut power to thousands of Hydro customers.

Winnipeg hit with 20 cm, another 5-10 cm expected in southwest Monday afternoon

Southern Manitoba is digging out from a dumping of thick, wet snow that forced many rural schools to cancel classes, stopped school buses in Winnipeg and cut power to thousands of Hydro customers.

About 10-30 centimetres of snow fell overnight across the region and another 5-10 cm is expected in the southwest Monday before it gradually tapers off.

About 20 cm fell in Winnipeg, and apart from some light flurries in the afternoon and evening, the city is likely in the clear, CBC meteorologist John Sauder said. 

Brandon was hit much harder, with more than 30 cm in parts of the city, Sauder said, adding Minnedosa, Erikson and Stonewall all woke up to at least 30 cm of snow.

"It's marvellous," said Brandonite Michael Cox, who was out with his wife and two dogs over the noon hour on Monday as heavy, wet snow pelted the city. "This is what makes Manitoba great."

The City of Winnipeg has more than 200 pieces of equipment working to clear the streets and sidewalks but in many places, it's like pushing through mashed potatoes. The snow is thick and sticky.

The conditions have caused delays for transit service, the fire-paramedic service, garbage and recycling collection and some other city departments. Four extra ambulances have been scheduled for the day to boost response times, the city said.

"It's been very busy but we'd been anticipating this. We were ready," said Cheryl Anderson, acting manager of street maintenance.

People are encouraged to check the city's social media links — Facebook and Twitter — for updates on road-clearing operations and other services.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said some of its community health services, especially home care, could be delayed or cancelled. Clients who need urgent care will be prioritized, a news release from the authority said.

Another 5-15 cm of snow is expected to fall in southern Manitoba on Monday, adding to the 10-30 cm that fell overnight. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

"We apologize for any negative impact this may have on our clients and their families, and are working to ensure all urgent clients are visited," the news release said.

'Treacherous drive' expected Tuesday

CAA Manitoba said there is a wait of about two hours for service around Winnipeg, which is far less than some delays for battery boosts during the deep freeze in January and February.

Because the temperature is a mild 1 C, there are very few calls for boosts, "but definitely our deck trucks and our tow trucks are out there winching and pulling people out of ditches and even just little snowbanks at the corner of their streets," said Liz Kulyk, spokesperson for CAA.

Pretty much every branch and fence post in Winnipeg had a cap of snow on it Monday morning. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

"The plow trucks are out and the city's doing a great job but there's lots of big ridges and windrows that they're leaving on driveways and that's where we're seeing people get hung up."

Kulyk said CAA trucks have been helping clear away some of those windrows from driveways, but "there's also lots of good Samaritans out there that we've seen helping people just with that little push to get them on their way."

Charlie Smith is one such Winnipegger. He fired up his all-terrain vehicle, which has a plow attached to the front, and moved snow from his elderly mother's driveway in Wolseley.

"This is March. This is Winnipeg. This is winter," Smith said. "It's actually fun."

Outside of the city, no one is waiting for service. The highways were closed for most of the morning, so no one was getting stuck, Kulyk said, adding that it also seems most people were prepared for the storm.

"People were hearing about the weather forecast two and three days in advance. We knew what to expect," Kulyk said. "That message saying 'Just don't go out unless you have to' clearly was resonating."

Although the storm is expected to move out by Tuesday, CAA is expecting more calls as vehicle get hung up on the ridges being created by snowplows.

"When the temperature goes down two or three degrees tonight, this is all going to freeze up, making tomorrow a very treacherous drive," Kulyk said.

About 4,000 people had no power in Winnipeg and more than 10,000 people were without power in southern Manitoba just before 8 a.m., Manitoba Hydro reported.

In a rarity for Winnipeg, all public school divisions have cancelled bus service for the day, although classes are still on.

That includes:

  • St. James-Assiniboia School Division.
  • River East Transcona School Division.
  • Louis Riel School Division.
  • Seven Oaks School Division.
  • Winnipeg School Division.
  • Pembina Trails School Division.
  • Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine.

There were multiple highway closures across the province, including the following routes:​

  • Highway 83 from Swan River to Russell.
  • Highway 45 from Russell to Sandy Lake.
  • Highway 16 from the Saskatchewan border east to Shoal Lake.
  • Highway 41 from Highway 16 to Highway 571.
  • Highway 5, from the Saskatchewan border to Grandview.

Many of the closures were lifted by late morning, but some remain in place. The province's highways information website provides up-to-date details and maps.