Manitoba

Thousands without power as storm system cuts through Manitoba

As of 10:46 p.m. Thursday, more than 32,000 Manitobans were without power as the first storm system of the season rolled through the southern half of the province.

More than 32,000 people without power as storm surges through province: Manitoba Hydro

Morning commuters make their way through the snow in Winnipeg on Thursday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Thousands of Manitobans were without power Thursday as the first storm system of the season rolled through the southern half of the province.

As of 10:46 p.m. Thursday, Manitoba Hydro said there were 32,092 people without power in the province, including 20,719 in Winnipeg.

A Colorado low, which moved in from the United States on Wednesday, is cutting across Manitoba from the southwest corner into the Red River Valley and northwestward toward Berens River.

As a result, the entire southern region is littered with winter storm warnings, winter storm watches and rainfall warnings. As well, travel is hazardous in many areas due to reduced visibility.

Whether an area is getting snow or rain depends on which side of the storm's line it falls. The line pretty much bisects Winnipeg, which is getting a mix of both and everything in between.

West and north of Winnipeg, where temperatures are lower due to a cold front from Saskatchewan, there's a winter storm warning.

In Winnipeg, the city temporarily shifted from summer maintenance to winter maintenance, salting roadways as needed.

The city said it was using private contractors and had city crews out in full force Thursday night plowing and salting.

Meanwhile, RCMP officers were busy attending to multiple collisions around southern Manitoba due to icy conditions.

Late Thursday night, a section of the north Perimeter Highway, between Highway 7 and Pipeline Road, was closed for a collision involving a tractor-trailer.

About 10-15 centimetres of snow fell across the Parkland region on Wednesday and another 10-15 cm was estimated to fall on Thursday, said Environment Canada.

But the biggest impact this weekend will be in the area between Brandon and Winnipeg, said CBC meteorologist John Sauder.

"I think the highest amounts will be west of the Red River Valley, that where I think we could see upwards of 50 cm in areas like Carman and out through Portage la Prairie and right along the Trans-Canada [Highway], and I know this is a very important weekend for travel," he said, talking about snowfall totals to Saturday morning.

It's beginning to look a lot like winter in Winnipeg. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

School's out

The weather also had an impact on students on Thursday.

A spokesperson from the Prairie Rose School Division said buses and classes were cancelled for the afternoon for all schools. The division said it was billeting students in the towns where they go to school if parents couldn't pick them up.

The spokesperson said this affected 10 community schools.

Meanwhile, Mennonite Collegiate Institute in Gretna closed its doors at 3 p.m. A spokesperson told CBC News the school will remain closed all day Friday due to the weather. 

Gretna is about 125 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

Winnipeg will see a mix of snow and rain on Thursday but about 10-15 centimetres of snow will fall on Friday, says CBC meteorologist John Sauder. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

In Winnipeg, temperatures were just slightly above the freezing mark Thursday, which limited snow accumulations, but there will still be some shovelling to do, said Sauder.

"I think what it'll be is 20 to 30 millimetres of rain at first, [then] five to 10 cm of wet snow on Thursday. But things really ramp up as this Colorado low gets a little closer and we'll get another 10-15 cm on Friday," he said.

South and east of Winnipeg, there was a rainfall warning. Already saturated places like Steinbach, the Whiteshell and Sprague were slated to see another 20-40 millimetres.

The storm system is also bringing strong northerly winds. 

Manitoba Hydro said about 8,000 people are without power due to weather conditions. A number of traffic lights around Winnipeg are also posing problems (Manitoba Hydro)

Manitoba Hydro responding

The combination of that and the wet snow is posing a problem with tree branches or power lines, Manitoba Hydro said.

The number of people affected by outages increased from a few hundred to around 18,000 people, and Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen said it's all weather related.

"Mother Nature doesn't know whether it's fall or whether it's winter so she's bringing both," he said, saying the wet, snow-laden branches are coming into contact with power lines, and sometimes bringing the lines down.

Owen warned some people in rural areas may be without power for an extended period of time, maybe even overnight.

He said preparations began earlier this week, when the grim forecasts first came out, to ensure staff and equipment would be at the ready to respond.

"For example, some on-call staff have taken field vehicles home so they can respond to outages at a moment's notice. We are also co-ordinating response with other emergency services, such as the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, in the event we see power lines down in Winnipeg," he said.

About the Author

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email: darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and Rachel Bergen

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