Howling winds, icy snowfall and zero visibility combined to create a monumental traffic disaster on Hwy 2 on Thursday evening, with scores of vehicle pileups and collisions between Airdrie and Red Deer.
Callers were reporting as many as 50 vehicles in a single pileup, said Sgt. Patricia Neely, the RCMP’s South District media liaison.
“We have multiple multi-vehicle collisions occurring in both the north and southbound lanes all the way from Carstairs to Red Deer,” said Neely, who didn’t expect to know the exact numbers of motorists injured or vehicles smashed until early today (Friday).
Before Hwy 2 was closed between Red Deer and Calgary at about 7:15 p.m., Didsbury RCMP responded to three different reports of 30- to 40-car pileups in the area between Carstairs and the Olds overpass.
Ponoka RCMP also closed southbound lanes of Hwy 2, north of Hwy 53, due to vehicle collisions caused by extreme weather conditions and zero visibility. Traffic was diverted to the Meniak overpass.
Police were trying to prevent additional accidents by diverting existing traffic off Hwy 2 onto Hwy 2A and other rural roads.
But Central Albertans who didn’t have to travel were advised to stay home.
“The general public is advised that travel is not recommended, and are asked to use alternate routes and stay off Hwy 2 in these areas,” stated Cst. Derek Iascelles of Didsbury RCMP in a release.
Red Deer Emergency Services ambulances were helping transport the injured, as members of the Red Deer Sheriffs and local fire departments assisted the RCMP.
Environment Canada warned on Wednesday that winds would pick up, temperatures drop, and snow fall in the region on Thursday.
Environment Canada issued wind warnings for gusts of 100 km an hour for most of Albera and Saskatchewan.
And late on Thursday afternoon, strong winds knocked out power in some parts of Calgary, including the Calgary International Airport, where some flights were delayed.