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Five people killed in Prairie snowstorm


Talk about dangerous driving. Click on the photo for more Prairie snowstorm pictures.
Talk about dangerous driving. Click on the photo for more Prairie snowstorm pictures.

Jill Colton, staff writer

May 1, 2011 — Blast of winter leads to the death of five people across the Prairies this weekend.

Snow piles up on a parked car in Manitoba.
Snow piles up on a parked car in Manitoba.

Five people have died in two separate accidents during a Prairie blizzard that closed highways and made driving conditions treacherous this weekend.

On Saturday, a blizzard warning was issued for several cities across Manitoba.

The storm hit on Friday night from a low over North Dakota -- and dumped up to 20 centimetres of heavy, wet snow on some areas.

Thousands of customers across Saskatchewan were knocked off the power grid by the strong winds and blowing snow. SaskPower says the severe weather conditions have prevented crews from reaching affected areas.

The snow led to five tragic incidents on the roads. In the first accident, two soldiers based at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba were killed early Sunday. The SUV they were driving spun out of control while crossing a bridge east of Brandon. It landed upside down in a creek.

The two in the front seat were killed instantly, while the two soldiers in the back suffered serious injuries.

Also on Sunday, three people died in a single vehicle accident near the community of Hamiota, northwest of Brandon. Their pickup truck lost control and hit a tree. Police confirmed that the driving conditions were horrible.

“We have a lot of water here in Manitoba as you know, and it's creating a lot of havoc,” said RCMP spokeswoman Line Karpish.

She confirmed that the weather was a factor in both crashes, but there's a chance that speed also played a role.

Visibility was severely reduced as the snow was driven by winds of up to 90 kilometres an hour.

East of Regina, in the Grenfell area, people were forced off the Trans-Canada Highway. Many also had to find shelter for the night in motels.There were reports that many of the hotel parking lots were completely full.

Elsewhere on the Trans-Canada, a lineup of semi-trailer trucks waited patiently for the major road to reopen Saturday.

The main route was closed because of the heavy snow further east on the highway.

RCMP also closed a section of the highway east of Indian Head, Saskatchewan, resulting in a backlog of transports.

Zero-visibility on a Regina road.
Zero-visibility on a Regina road.

Officials advised against travel in the Yorkton and Melville areas because of the low visibility.

Manitoba didn't fare much better. A number of highways were closed across the province, including the Yellowhead Highway from the boundary with Saskatchewan to Minnedosa.

There were reports of blowing snow and an ice-slush mixture on the ground. The combination made the drive incredibly icy and dangerous.

The snowstorm is also impacting the flooding situation. Officials say the expected crests of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers have been pushed back several days.

With files from CBC and The Canadian Press

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