Blizzard buries southern Alberta, closing roads and stranding motorists

David Reid uses a snow blower mounted on a tractor to clear his driveway during a blizzard near Cremona, Alta., Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. Southern Alberta is under a winter storm warning with temperatures... more 
David Reid uses a snow blower mounted on a tractor to clear his driveway during a blizzard near Cremona, Alta., Monday, Dec. 2, 2013. Southern Alberta is under a winter storm warning with temperatures dipping down to -20C with high winds and heavy snowfall. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh less 
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The Canadian Press
Tue, 3 Dec, 2013 3:00 PM EST

Beleaguered Albertans, having already endured through a blizzard on Monday, found little relief this morning as they awoke today to frigid windchills and piled-high snowdrifts that blocked doorways, buried cars and made roads impassable in some areas.

The major storm that swept through Alberta yesterday dropped up to 25 centimetres of snow across the province, with some smaller amounts through the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, and even more — up to 40 centimetres — in southern communities like Lethbridge and Pincher Creek. That's nothing that Albertans haven't already seen so far this season, but wind gusts of up to 70 or 80 kilometres per hour made conditions even worse, picking up that snow and whipping it around to produce a blizzard throughout southern regions of the province. Windchills have reached down to -30 thanks to the persistent 30-40 kilometre per hours winds, and it would have felt even colder than that at times, due to the powerful gusting.

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Bumps and fender-benders are to be expected in this kind of weather, but according to CBC News, one multi-vehicle accident north of Calgary, involved 23 vehicles, including 4 tractor-trailers, and there was another multi-car pileup on the Trans-Canada (Hwy 1) east of the city. Authorities closed Highway 2 between Airdrie and Red Deer, and Highway 1 between Calgary and Brooks due to the dangerous conditions, telling stranded motorists to seek shelter in local hotels. Many roads today are still covered or partially-covered, with roads east and northeast of Calgary, including the Trans-Canada, still closed. Updated road conditions can be checked online.

Even those who weren't getting behind the wheel were still affected by the road conditions. Schoolbus services in Calgary were cancelled due to the weather. Those waiting in the snow and blasting winds for city buses were forced to wait even longer due to traffic delays, and in some cases they had no service at all, as buses were forced to reroute to avoid getting stuck on snowdrift-covered side roads. As if any encouragement was really needed, many were advised to stay home for the day, and that advisory has continued for today.

Problems greeted travellers at airports as well, with dozens of delays and cancellations as crews struggled to cycle flights in the adverse weather. Most cancellations were those flying in areas also affected by the storm, but flights to and from as far away as Chicago, Toronto and San Francisco were also affected. Several flights are suffering delays and cancellations today, so anyone travelling to and from Alberta should check the status of their flight before they leave.

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The snow is still falling across Alberta today, with up to another 5 centimetres expected to fall by the end of the day. Blizzard conditions still exist in regions south of Calgary, with warnings still in place, but the winds have been slowly dying down as of this morning, now that the storm has moved off into the US Midwest.

Although the skies will be clearing across the province by Wednesday morning, intensely cold Arctic air will be drawn down in the wake of the storm. Daily highs for the rest of the week will be around -20 degrees C, and even the lighter winds will still keep windchills down near -30 until the weather starts to warm up a little bit over the weekend.

(Photo courtesy The Canadian Press)

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