An Alberta sheriff is among the people injured in a rash of collisions blamed on ice and heavy snow throughout Central Alberta on Thursday.
Cpl. Darrin Turnbull, media relations officer for the Hwy 2 integrated traffic unit, said the sheriff had stopped to assist motorists at a collision on Hwy 2 southbound near Lacombe just before 1 p.m. when he was struck by a passing semi that had gone out of control.
The sheriff was rushed to hospital with unknown injuries, said Turnbull. Brendan Cox, communications officer for Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, declined to provide details of the his injuries or to say where he was taken.
However, RCMP later said he was being treated in Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre for serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Cox said the collision should be a reminder to motorists of the need to take special care in winter driving conditions.
He said it also serves as a reminder of the dangers that Alberta’s peace officers face in their efforts to serve people and keep them safe.
The southbound section of Hwy 2 between Hwy 12 and the Aspelund Road at Blackfalds was closed for the afternoon and another section near Gasoline Alley was shut down due to a separate incident.
The highway’s generally poor condition throughout the province prompted the RCMP to release a travel advisory, warning that the road was very slippery with multiple collisions between Edmonton and Calgary.
Heavy snowfall led Wolf Creek Public Schools to announce the closure of all its schools today. Parents in other school districts are encouraged to check school and school district websites for up-to-date information on school closures.
Lynden Fischer, operations manager for Alberta Transportation in Red Deer, encouraged people to go online and visit 511.alberta.ca for updates on road conditions and collisions.
Fischer said on Thursday that contractors in the Red Deer area hit the roads at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, as soon as the snow started to fall. As of Thursday afternoon, 56 of the 58 plow trucks were on duty, making multiple passes in an effort to keep up with the falling snow.
Contractors had started rotating shifts as the first drivers reached the number of hours they are legally allowed to operate, but may run into difficulty finding replacement drivers if the snowfall hits the third and fourth days, said Fischer.
Inside Red Deer, city roads superintendent Jim Chase said crews were prepared and hit the priority routes early Thursday morning, laying sand on main roads and clearing snow from hills and bridges. More crews were to come on after 8 p.m. on Thursday to pick up snow that had accumulated on the purple and red routes.
Snow accumulations had not yet reached levels to trigger plowing in residential areas, which starts when the totals reach 10 cm of packed snow. It generally takes about 40 cm of fallen snow to make 10 cm of packed snow, said Chase.
Accumulations in Red Deer had reached 15 cm by 2 p.m. on Thursday.
Plowing overnight and this morning will mean drivers inside the city will see considerable improvement in road conditions from what they encountered on Thursday, he said.
Red Deer City RCMP have asked motorists to take precautions, including making sure all snow is removed from their vehicles, taking care to avoid sudden moves and ensuring that their vehicle’s tires, lights and emergency equipment are in good working order.
Drivers should leave extra room between vehicles and those with four-wheel-drive vehicles are reminded that, while they have better traction starting out, there is no additional advantage in braking.
Adding extra weight in the vehicle’s trunk or truck box can also help and motorists are encouraged to keep their headlights on at all times to make their vehicles more visible to others.
Environment Canada’s forecast for today calls for periods of snow with winds gusting to 50 km/h and tapering off in the afternoon with an overnight low of -26C.
The sun is expected to shine on Saturday, with a daytime high of -20C.