Winter weather has Alberta drivers in icy grip

Falling snow, high winds and frigid temperatures combined for a second day of misery Saturday in Alberta, where the first major winter storm of the season was causing all kinds of grief.

Traffic works its way in and out of the city along 67 Street near the Hwy 2 overpass as drivers on several of Central Alberta's highways faced icy road conditions and poor visibility when a winter storm hit the province Friday. The storm swept across Alberta bring with it up to 10 cm of snow and winds gusting up to 60 km/h causing several of Alberta's highways to be shut down.

EDMONTON — Falling snow, high winds and frigid temperatures combined for a second day of misery Saturday in Alberta, where the first major winter storm of the season was causing all kinds of grief.

In Edmonton, 20 centimetres of snow made for lousy driving on major roads and left side streets and alleys virtually impassable, while in Calgary high winds caused so much drifting that some parked cars were literally buried in the white stuff.

Even public transit couldn’t cope, lagging an hour behind schedule of average and sometimes even getting stuck in the drifts.

“We have buses stuck mainly in residential areas where they haven’t been able to get plows,” said Edmonton Transit spokeswoman Patricia Dickson.

City officials said it would likely take until Monday for the main roads to be plowed.

Operations were running more smoothly at the Edmonton International Airport compared with the day before, said airport spokeswoman Traci Bednard.

“It’s a little busy with some cancellations (Friday), as airlines needed to re-book people,” she said Saturday. “But there are no cancellations specifically due to weather.”

Environment Canada said if the snow weren’t bad enough, the mercury was to start dipping with a bitterly deep cold settling over the region.

“This is a prolonged cold spell we’ve got into now,” said meteorologist John McIntyre.

Daytime highs will barely beat -20 C throughout the week, according to the Environment Canada forecast, while lows will dip even further.

Flight cancellations, trapped buses and stymied motorists were also the order of the day in Calgary, which also got about 20 centimetres and saw wind gusts up to 80 km/h early Saturday morning.

Calgary Transit spokesman Ron Collins said 46 buses were stuck in the snow as of 4 a.m.

“This is kind of a unique situation this snow — as deep as it is and the drifts,” said Collins.

One major road, Metis Trail, was forced to close because snow drifts and abandoned vehicles made it impassable.

At Calgary International Airport, 26 flights were cancelled and many others were delayed.

About a dozen of the cancelled flights were operated by Air Canada and Jazz, said Air Canada spokesman John Reber.

“We only fly when it’s safe to fly,” he said.

North of the city, dozens of cars littered the ditches along the QEII Highway, which was closed for hours between Red Deer and Airdrie due to poor visibility.

Not everyone was complaining, though. Edmonton’s Snow Valley ski hill had to bring in a snow machine just last month; on Saturday, the slope was covered in children having fun.

“It’s really good,” said spokesman Murray Sugden, adding with a wink and a smile: “It actually gets people out here, because they think there’s snow on the hill!”

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