Western highways closed, reports of thundersnow as storm system sweeps through Manitoba

Western highways closed, reports of thundersnow as storm system sweeps through Manitoba

A storm that just swept across Saskatchewan has made its way to western Manitoba, changing freezing rain into snow and set to blast most of the province back into winter. 

It looks like Winnipeg will be spared the worst of the late-winter wallop, but large chunks of the province are not so lucky.

Highways in western Manitoba from the Saskatchewan border are closing including Highway 1 to just east of Brandon and Highway 16 nearly to Portage la Prairie. To follow all highway closures visit the Manitoba 511 website.

Manitoba Hydro is also warning customers in western Manitoba to plan for extended outages because crews are unable to get out in the weather

Rain began to change into snow late Monday afternoon, CBC meteorologist John Sauder said. 

There have been reports of thundersnow on social media. 

"This is not as uncommon as one would think. We get typically get one or two thundersnow events every couple of years. With the lightning I was reporting earlier today, I was not surprised to hear about thundersnow associated with this storm," Sauder said. 

Environment Canada says an intense low-pressure system is tracking north from Montana and will bring heavy snow to northern Manitoba starting Monday and lasting into Tuesday evening.

By Wednesday, snowfall totals from the system will be in the 10-60 centimetre range, with the higher amount in the north — Norway House, Leaf Rapids, Lynn Lake, Pukatawagan, Flin Flon, Nelson House and York Landing.

In the far northeast corner of the province — Churchill, York and Gillam — conditions will begin to deteriorate Monday night as northerly winds of 50-60 km/h combine to reduce visibility to near zero in swirling snow.

The winds will likely increase in speed Tuesday, especially over Churchill and York, with gusts of 100 km/h at times, Environment Canada forecasts.

Blizzard conditions will develop Monday evening over western Manitoba with northwest winds of 50-60 km/h combining with the heavy snow to reduce the visibility to near zero in whiteout conditions, Environment Canada forecasts.

Winds are expected to stay strong overnight and through Tuesday with snow and blowing snow through the entire day and into the night, said Sauder.

Those messy conditions will persist Tuesday for the Virden and Melita areas, while Minnedosa, Dauphin and the Ste. Rose regions are expected to improve slightly Tuesday as the heavy snow tapers off. However, blowing snow will persist.

By Tuesday morning, snowfall totals are expected to be in the 10-15 cm range in the Melita and Virden areas and 40 cm further north toward the Dauphin area.

Rain, some snow for Winnipeg

The storm system began with rain in southeast Manitoba but snow began to fall Monday afternoon in Brandon.

Sauder expects to see between 5-10 centimetres of snowfall in Winnipeg, Brandon will get between 10-15 centimetres.

Conditions made for slick roadways in the early afternoon Monday west of Brandon, where a semi-trailer jackknifed in the middle of the Trans-Canada Highway near Alexander, Man.

Visibility will be be poor with blowing snow all day Tuesday through the southeast, central and northern Manitoba as the storm pulls away gradually to the northeast, said Sauder.

Sun and much calmer, though cold, conditions return by Wednesday.