Winter weather has Alberta drivers in icy grip

EDMONTON — A winter snowstorm closed highways in Alberta and had drivers slipping and sliding during rush hour all the way from Edmonton to Calgary on Friday.

EDMONTON — A winter snowstorm closed highways in Alberta and had drivers slipping and sliding during rush hour all the way from Edmonton to Calgary on Friday.

RCMP closed a section of the main highway north of Calgary for several hours after several collisions and whiteout conditions were reported.

By evening, they still weren’t recommending travel due to poor driving conditions.

Several semi-trailer units jackknifed near a bridge west of Big Valley, Alta., closing a rural highway for at least two hours.

Prospects weren’t great for the rest of the weekend, with temperatures expected to plummet to -15C by Saturday afternoon along with more flurries.

“It doesn’t look very good,” said Linda Schuler, meteorologist for Environment Canada, of the long-range forecast.

“This (system) developed over the province, an upper disturbance moved across from B.C. and joined up with a cold front coming from the north.”

About 10 cm of snow fell in Calgary and 15 cm in Edmonton while high winds reduced visibility to almost zero.

Calgary police responded to 172 collisions between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., 26 of them involving injuries. In Edmonton, five of 42 crashes resulted in injury.

Every piece of equipment available was kept working through the night in an effort to keep major roads clear, said Calgary transportation spokesman Sean Somers.

Drivers weren’t the only ones hampered. Flights were cancelled and delayed at both Calgary and Edmonton airports.

“The weather has had a significant affect on our operations,” said WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer, noting staff were serving drinks and snacks to their customers stuck waiting in long lines.

In Edmonton, an armada of 83 trucks were out sanding and plowing.

“We’re running pretty much a full complement and we’ll keep it up right through (Friday night) and look at it again in the morning,” he said. “We’re working at it.”

Despite the efforts of road crews, Edmontonians weathered a difficult day of collisions, stuck vehicles, and crawling commutes.

Scott Roy, a dispatcher with towing company Auto Rescue, said by the evening rush hour there had been at least 50 calls for service with customers waiting between 45 minutes to an hour.

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