Southwestern Manitoba walloped by latest spring storm

Parts of southwestern Manitoba have been hit hard by inclement weather once again, as the province deals with another Colorado low system that has knocked out power for thousands and closed sections of several highways.

'Winter can pretty much take a hike at this point,' Dauphin Mayor Christian Laughland says

Cindy Shaurette from Onanole, seen on Zoom on Sunday, said enough snow fell in that part of the province this weekend that she didn't think she'd be able to drive out of her yard. (Zoom)

Parts of southwestern Manitoba have been hit hard by inclement weather once again, as the province deals with another Colorado low system that has knocked out power for thousands and closed sections of several highways.

The snow, rain and winds this weekend come about a week after some of those same regions were walloped by southern Manitoba's recent spring snowstorm.

The small community of Onanole, which is about 220 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near Riding Mountain National Park, got the most snow during that storm with an estimated 82 centimetres.

And on Sunday, the region was once again covered. Cindy Shaurette, who owns the Honeycomb Bed and Breakfast in the area, said even the snow right outside her front door must have been a foot and a half deep — and she wasn't even sure if it was done falling yet.

"It's hard to tell because the winds are so strong, it's blowing everything," she said. 

"I don't think we'd be able to drive out of our yard. I think the driveway is all drifted through."

Cindy Shaurette says the snow outside her front door near Onanole Sunday morning must have been a foot and a half deep. (Submitted by Cindy Shaurette)

More than a dozen highway closures were in effect Sunday due to "poor winter driving conditions."

Full details can be found on the Manitoba 511 website.

Power outages

Of the more than 800 power outages reported in the province as of Sunday afternoon, at least one-third were in the area around Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba Hydro's website said.

Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said most of the roughly 15,000 people still without power later Sunday were in that part of the province.

And as temperatures began to drop, crews started encountering ice forming on power lines. That weighs them down, and when the wind starts to blow and swing the lines, that weight can lead to poles snapping, Owen said.

Difficult road conditions because of the weather are also slowing crews down as they work to restore power across Manitoba, he said.

Crews are working to get power back to as many people as possible by the end of the day, shifting workers from Winnipeg out to harder hit regions.

Even so, some people may end up having to wait until at least Monday to get their electricity back.

"We use the same roads as everybody," Owen said, which means hydro crews are also facing overland flooding, mucky gravel roads and water in ditches that anyone else trying to get around is seeing.

"So if we have a pole or a line that we have to get to and it's … near a ditch, we have to access it. We have the equipment to do that, but we need to get the equipment there to do it, and that takes time."

Owen also urged people to be prepared for the next storm in Manitoba by making sure they have an emergency kit ready.

Shaurette said she hadn't lost electricity yet, but she did lose something else — all the guests who had booked rooms in her bed and breakfast for the weekend.

"And they cancelled for next week, too, because they see there's more snow in store," she said.

"We're just all tired of the snow, and I'm ready for it to go. Obviously, May long weekend, we have a bunch of guests supposedly coming, but we'll see what happens. 

"Sometimes they wait to see what the weather's like. And as far as I can tell, they can just bring their ice fishing rods and they can go ice fishing on Clear Lake."

Residents cleaning up

In nearby Dauphin, Mayor Christian Laughland said the city is starting to clean up after a deluge of rain that was followed by a significant dump of heavy, wet snow.

But crews there are still having a tough time clearing roads — most streets have downed branches and a few trees have fallen — so he expects it'll take at least 12 hours before things are back to normal.

"It's tough for city crews to really move this kind of snow around … on the main roads. We don't want to clog up peoples' drains or driveways and stuff like that because of how heavy it is," he said.

In a tweet Sunday afternoon, Manitoba Hydro said customers without electricity in Dauphin may not have their power restored until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Despite the mess, Laughland said residents are in good spirits now that they've begun to shovel and blow the snow out.

"Dauphin's a really tight-knit community in that end, so I know there's people out there that'll be checking on elderly neighbours and stuff like that, and making sure they're OK," he said.

While the city will assess how the weekend's storm could affect future flood risks, he said everyone is pretty much on board with how they're feeling about the weather.

"I'm not too, too worried, it's just more of an inconvenient storm," he said. 

"I think I speak for the entire province when I say winter can pretty much take a hike at this point."

With files from Caitlyn Gowriluk


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