'White knuckler' snowstorm slams southern Manitoba

Southern Manitoba was battered by a storm that shut down many schools, reduced visibility, turned roads into slippery and snow-covered messes and sent cars into ditches Tuesday.

Schools closed, roads hazardous as 15-30 centimetres of heavy snow expected

Southern Manitoba battered by a storm

6 years ago
Duration 1:56
Southern Manitoba was battered by a storm that shut down many schools, reduced visibility, turned roads into slippery and snow-covered messes and sent cars into ditches Tuesday.

Southern Manitoba was battered by a storm that shut down many schools, reduced visibility, turned roads into slippery and snow-covered messes and sent cars into ditches Tuesday.

Snowy side streets caused the Winnipeg School Division to warn parents their kids might not make it home on the school bus Tuesday afternoon.

The wind, the visibility … they call it the 'white knuckler.- Bob Stremich

"If buses are unable to navigate the streets, students will be returned to their home school where they will be supervised until parents can pick them up," a statement from the division read.

The majority of southern Manitoba was covered by a winter storm warning, with a range of 15-30 centimetres of heavy snow expected. Winnipeg was expected to get 20-25 centimetres, while 30 centimetres was forecast to hit areas south of the city.

Northerly winds gusting to 70 km/h were expected to develop, making visibility on roads extremely poor — and near zero — for parts of Tuesday and into Wednesday as well.

In southeastern Manitoba, a further 10-20 centimetres of snow is possible by Wednesday morning.

The intensity of the storm prompted a full-out blizzard warning for some areas, including Morden, Winkler, Altona, Morris and the rural municipality of Portage la Prairie.

The snow and wind were forecast to gradually ease Wednesday night. Bitterly cold Arctic air is expected to sweep in with lows below –20 C expected by the end of the week and wind chill values in the –30 to –35 range.

The sleepy Interlake town of Gimli looked like an advertise for Game of Thrones. Manitoba filmmaker Andy Bliq went to the shores of Lake Winnipeg to watch the waves roll in.

"There's these enormous rollers coming in from the north. You can imagine the wind blowing down the full length of the lake — 400 kilometres. They are about at least a metre high, some of them and crashing right over the pier," he said.

"Really you see the awesome power of the lake when you look at the lake on a day like this."

Storm footage on Lake Winnipeg

6 years ago
Duration 0:51
A winter storm is brewing on Lake Winnipeg. Video courtesy: Andy Blicq

'It gets a little scary"

Eathan Sveinson, a deliveryman for UPS, resorted to using a sled to move parcels door to door.

"This is the first time I've had to use the sled, and it's actually working really well," Sveinson said, adding he has only been working for UPS for about a month. "I like it, I enjoy getting out, even if the weather is like this."

Delivery driver Bob Stremich got stuck at road closure barricades in Headingley in the morning.

"The wind, the visibility … they call it the 'white knuckler,'" he said. "When you can't see where you're going is when it gets a little scary."

Eathan Sveinson pulled out a sled to help him haul parcels in the snow. (CBC)

Eric Glass, administrative director with the Paramedic Association of Manitoba, said paramedics feel an obligation to do their job — rain, snow or shine.

He cautioned drivers to keep an eye out for flashing lights and emergency crews parked along snowy roadsides Tuesday.

"People need to think about that when paramedics or firefighters or police officers are on the highways attending to rollovers, people that are stuck in the ditch, people that have collisions on the highways. There isn't a lot of room to work on a day like today," Glass said.

"Not only are the road conditions bad and the visibility bad, but very often two- and three-lane highways are really just a single path for traffic to travel, and that makes the job for everybody that's out on the highways tending to those situations that much more dangerous."

Neighbours banded together in Sage Creek to shovel a path for vehicles to leave the south Winnipeg neighbourhood. (CBC)
Meanwhile some residents in Sage Creek were forced to wait more than two hours after snow blocked one of their exits out of the area. 

Neighbours banded together in the south Winnipeg neighbourhood to shovel a pathway starting around 4 p.m. to clear a pathway for the cars and school buses lined up near the exit. 

"I was coming home and saw a big lineup here and only two people shovelling and I thought they are never going to get out," said. Jill Desilites.

Somehow spirits were still high and Desilites joked it was her workout for the day.

"It's helping people out who are otherwise stuck. If it was me, I'd be appreciative of the extra hand too," she said with a smile. 

City services disrupted

City of Winnipeg crews were on the streets starting at 2:30 a.m., spreading sand and salt on priority roads with 40 trucks. Plowing operations began at 7 a.m. with more than 160 plows and loaders. Those operations continued throughout the day.

A total of 450 pieces of heavy equipment were prepared for use across the city for the next 36 hours.

The city put four extra ambulances on the road for the day to help address anticipated delays getting to emergency calls.

Recycling and garbage pickup, Winnipeg Transit and Handi-Transit were also delayed.

Winnipeg forecast for Dec. 6

  • High –3 C
  • Snow and blowing snow with about 15 centimetres falling.
  • Wind north 40-60 km/h in the morning; northwest 30-50 km/h in the afternoon.
  • Snow and blowing snow tonight with another 5-10 centimetres.
  • Low –8 C.

Normal temperatures for this time of year are a daytime high of –8 C and an overnight low of –18 C.

Strong wind blows snow over Manitoba highways

6 years ago
Duration 0:30
A snow storm led to several closures on Highway 1 Tuesday.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and Jillian Taylor