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Deadly snowstorm hits the Prairies

Blowing snow reduced visibility across Manitoba
Blowing snow reduced visibility across Manitoba

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

February 19, 2011 — Heavy snow and strong winds caused travel chaos across the Prairies Thursday and into Friday morning.

A blanket of fresh snow in Saskatoon
A blanket of fresh snow in Saskatoon

Winter made a return to the Prairies this week causing numerous problems on the roads.

A system that moved in on Wednesday brought heavy snow to parts of central and southern Saskatchewan. 15 cm of snow piled up in Saskatoon, while Regina saw closer to 5 cm.

As a result, roads deteriorated significantly across the region. On Thursday, the Highway Ministry warned motorists of poor conditions around Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Gravelbourg, Wakaw, Tisdale and Meadow Lake. Zero visibility was reported on the roads in the Shaunavon area as well.

The system continued to track east into southern Manitoba Thursday afternoon where blizzard-like weather rolled through. The combination of heavy snow and wind gusts of up to 70 km/h produced visibilities of less than one kilometre over open rural areas.

Several highways were closed including the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg to Brandon.

Drivers faced treacherous conditions on Thursday
Drivers faced treacherous conditions on Thursday

Police responded to numerous traffic accidents and a deadly rollover was reported on Highway 7, north of Teulon. Another driver in a pickup truck near the community of Austin was killed after slamming into the side of a freight train Thursday night. RCMP say the weather and reduced visibility was a factor.

There was also an impact on air travel at Winnipeg's James A. Richardson International Airport. Officials say Thursday's storm caused the worst visibility so far this winter and forced the cancellation of several flights in and out of the city.

Even rock stars weren't immune to the weather; the band Heart were forced to hunker down at a truck stop Thursday night en route to a gig in Saskatchewan after blizzard conditions forced the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway.

While winds died down and conditions improved on Friday, certain schools in Manitoba didn't want to take the chance. Lakeshore, Interlake and Seine River School divisions cancelled all classes on Friday. Brandon School Division buses outside of the city were not in operation either.

Temperatures plummeted in the storm's wake. It was -17C in Winnipeg on Saturday, but it felt like -26 with the windchill. It was sunny in Saskatoon, but -23C.

Windchill warnings were in effect Saturday for much of central and southern Alberta, where Calgary is hosting festivities around the NHL Heritage Classic outdoor hockey game.

To stay updated on the weather in your area, tune into The Weather Network on TV. National Forecasts come up at 2 and 32 minutes past each hour.

You can also sign up to receive weather forecasts and public alerts on your mobile phone.

With files from CBC Manitoba.

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