Winter storm, blizzard conditions force highway closures in western Manitoba
Blowing snow conditions expected to last well into Wednesday
Several highways in western Manitoba were closed as a winter storm moved into the province on Tuesday, bringing swirling snow, poor visibility and blizzard warnings.
The system, which is tracking along the international border and impacting the province's south, was expected to continue through much of Wednesday, though many of the highways had been reopened by early that morning.
According to Manitoba 511, the following highways remain closed due to poor winter driving conditions:
- Highway 5, from Highway 1 to Grandview.
- Highway 16, from Highway 1 to Minnedosa.
- PR 482, from Highway 5 to Highway 83.
Environment Canada has issued a range of alerts across the south, from a blowing snow advisory to winter storm warnings and blizzard warnings.
CBC meteorologist John Sauder said the heaviest snowfall — 15-25 centimetres — is expected north of the Trans-Canada and Yellowhead Highways, in areas like Gimli and further into the Interlake region. The Riding Mountain area could see closer to 30 cm.
South of the Trans-Canada, the amounts are likely to be less, around 10-15 cm. But that's also where things could be the nastiest.
"It's not so much about the amount of snow. It's about what the wind will do to the snow and what that will do to create some really, really hazardous driving conditions," Sauder said.
Winnipeg, Brandon and several other areas are under the blowing snow advisory, where the wind is expected to gust up to 70 km/h. Combined with the fresh snowfall, that could suddenly reduce visibility to near zero.
Areas further south — Morden, Winkler, Altona, Portage la Prairie, Headingley, Brunkild, Carman, Morris, Steinbach, St. Adolphe and Emerson — are all under the blizzard warning. These areas could see wind gusts developing closer to the evening and overnight and forecast to be around 80 km/h.
"We are expecting visibility to be very poor, 400 metres or less, and for over four hours. That's the criteria for a blizzard warning," Sauder said.
Those conditions are likely to continue until late Wednesday afternoon before the winds begin to moderate.
Environment Canada is urging people to consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve. Highways, roads, walkways and parking lots could be difficult to navigate due to accumulating and drifting snow.
The City of Winnipeg said it plans to send out around 200 pieces of equipment to begin plowing streets.
"There will be trucks on the road plowing the major streets to make sure they are passable and open," said Michael Cantor, the city's Manager of Streets Maintenance.
The city will hopefully begin sidewalks and back lanes on Wednesday, he added.
The forecast beyond the stormy weather, as Christmas gets closer, can be summed up in a single word, Sauder said.
Temperatures are expected to drop as an Arctic cold front pushes in.
Thursday's high for Winnipeg will be about –23 C, Sauder said.