Numerous collisions and rollovers were reported across western Manitoba Friday as an Alberta clipper raced into the province.
Zero visibility and blasts of freezing rain prompted officials to close both the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 16 between Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan boundary. Conditions were so bad that two police officers who were working to close the highway near Portage La Prairie sustained minor injuries when a semi-trailer collided with their cruiser.
More highway closures mirrored the system's progress across the province. At one point late Friday evening, more than 15 routes had been partially or completely closed.
Brian Dillon, a meteorologist with The Weather Network, says the system isn't packing much moisture, but it is generating wind gusts up to 75 kilometres per hour.
“It looks worse than it is,” he says. “Not a lot of snow fell, but it's been blowing and drifting the entire time.”
That's making it difficult to get accurate measurements of how much snow has fallen, but it's estimated to be in the range of 7 to 10 cm.
Blowing snow warnings were still in place for the southern Red River Valley Saturday morning. The winds will taper as the system moves on and some highways have reopened, but Environment Canada warns that visibility of less than 800 metres is still possible through the southern part of the province Saturday morning.
Highway 30 from the U.S. border to Rosenfeld remains closed due to a multi-vehicle pileup.
The storm stretched into North Dakota, where state troopers had to rescue about 800 people stranded in their vehicles during the worst of the blizzard on Friday. Many had to spend Friday night in shelters as the highways remained closed.
The poor conditions also hampered search efforts for a Winnipeg man who got lost in the whiteout while returning from an ice-fishing expedition. Strong winds kept police from using a helicopter to assist with the search.With files from the Winnipeg Free Press