'This is pathetic': Transport truck drivers stuck near Virden without food, water for 24 hours

Transport truck drivers who sat stranded outside a small Manitoba town after a storm closed part of the Trans-Canada say they didn't receive food, water or help from authorities for more than a day.

Trans-Canada Highway was re-opened to traffic Wednesday afternoon

Vehicles were forced to stop outside of Virden Tuesday morning after the Trans-Canada Highway was closed. (Mojeeb Sahar )

Transport truck drivers who sat stranded outside of Virden, Man., after a storm closed part of the Trans-Canada say they didn't receive food, water or help from authorities for more than a day.

Shawn Henkle was driving from Calgary to Winnipeg when he was forced to stop outside the western Manitoba town when the highway closed Tuesday morning due to blizzard conditions.

He said all he had to eat was a doughnut that he got from another driver.

"I just wish the local authorities or somebody could give us some kind of information or just check on people," he told CBC News on Wednesday as he waited. "I think the public safety officers should be doing their job, check on people, make sure everything is okay."

On Wednesday morning, RCMP and local firefighters checked on drivers and brought food, water and other supplies to trucks.

RCMP Sgt. Mark Hume said he knows drivers were frustrated with the closure, but said there were safety issues to consider. 

"What a lot of these people aren't aware of is that there are bad spots throughout the highways between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg that are absolutely impassable," he said when the road was still closed. "So we can't let vehicles get to that point and then be stuck in the middle of nowhere." 

More than 30 cm of snow was expected to fall in southern Manitoba during the storm, which moved into western Manitoba on Monday. Transport trucks and other vehicles became stranded after arriving in Manitoba without knowing the highway was closed.

By Wednesday evening, weather advisories were over for most of Manitoba, with the exception of Churchill and York. As of 9 p.m. local time, Environment Canada maintained a blizzard warning for both northern areas that is expected to end overnight.

Highway re-opened

The Trans-Canada Highway was re-opened to traffic Wednesday afternoon, more than a day after it was closed between Headingley, Man., and the Saskatchewan border.

Mojeeb Sahar, who CBC News spoke to by phone from his transport truck outside of Virden on Tuesday, said the line of trucks was moving, but slowly.

Bryan Kliewer, a driver with Gardwine, was also stuck in the same five-kilometre-long line.

"I made it to the Timmies just now with another driver," he said after he made the walk, adding that his truck was stranded less than a kilometre from Virden and that others attempted to make the dangerous trek from further away last night.

He said a bottle of water and an apple were dropped off late this morning by authorities.

Kliewer said he saw one man slip — and even though it looked as if the man was hurt, he continued walking towards Virden. Another driver was walking into the town with no gloves and only a light jacket. 

"Now they're coming to us door-to-door and this is 25 hours later," he said. He was on the phone with CBC just before noon, when crews knocked on his door asking if he needed any assistance. 

Trucks were lined up outside of Virden, Man., Tuesday and Wednesday after the Trans-Canada Highway was closed Tuesday morning. (Mojeeb Sahar )

"I don't have any food left in my truck because I left Alberta and figured I was going straight to Winnipeg so I bought some lunch and away I went," Henkle said, adding that many drivers who were just making day trips were probably in the same boat, with not much food and not enough fuel to last much longer. 

Henkle said he had enough fuel for another two to three days.

Hearing Virden get praise for opening the doors to stranded passengers has Kliewer asking questions. 

"All I see is me sitting here for all this time and nobody has checked on me," Kliewer said Wednesday morning. 

​Brad Yochim, chief of the Wallace and District Fire Department in Virden, said on Wednesday morning that crews were checking on drivers and were working to get food, water, fuel and other supplies out to the drivers.

Henkle expressed frustration about the wait.

"Just come and check on people," Henkle said before the road re-opened. "It's a simple thing if a guy has to come use the washroom." 

"This is pathetic." 

"It doesn't boost morale for the transport industry," Kliewer said. "If we're so short of truck drivers and they hear how we're looked after out on the highway, how do you get younger guys coming up to take over our jobs?" 

"We're professionals, we know what we're doing," said Henkle. "We also know when it's time to park our trucks."

"This is not one of those times we should all be sitting here parked."