Multiple crashes, jack-knifed semis reported after icy rain pelts Sask. highways

A Saskatchewan man says he spent the night in his vehicle parked on Highway 1 after traffic ground to a halt Tuesday night. (Submitted to CBC - image credit)
A Saskatchewan man says he spent the night in his vehicle parked on Highway 1 after traffic ground to a halt Tuesday night. (Submitted to CBC - image credit)

Freezing rain and blowing snow created hazardous conditions on many Saskatchewan roadways Wednesday, resulting in crashes and the closure of parts of Highway 1.

RCMP said around 1 a.m. CST that the westbound lanes of Highway 7 east of Kindersley were closed because of a jack-knifed semi trailer unit — one of several such incidents around the province.

They said tow trucks were not able to reach the location because of poor road conditions. They also told the public to find alternate routes or to not travel in the area.

RCMP said Wednesday afternoon that they had received reports of 59 vehicle collisions and another 37 non-collision weather-related incidents, like traffic hazards and vehicles landing in the ditch.

Overnight, thousands of residents in Regina were hit by a power outage that lasted two hours, although it is not known if the weather was a factor.

One motorist told CBC News at around 6:30 a.m. CST Wednesday morning that there were "many kilometres" of vehicles lined up on Highway 1 near Swift Current.

Matt Mulrooney of Calgary got caught in the line while trying to get to Regina. He said Wednesday morning that he and other drivers had been stranded on the highway for hours and had to sleep in their vehicles overnight. He came to a stop near Swift Current at around 10:40 p.m. CST Tuesday.

"We haven't moved an inch since," he told CBC Wednesday morning.

"It's uncomfortable. We're not parked on the shoulder of the highway, we're parked on the highway proper."

Mulrooney said later that he eventually got into Swift Current at around 11 a.m. CST Wednesday.

RCMP say people should follow the Highway Hotline's guidance to stay off certain routes. As of 6:30 p.m. CST Wednesday, travel was not advised on highways in southwest Saskatchewan, south of Kindersley and west of Moose Jaw, and not recommended on highways leading in or out of Swift Current.

A 200-kilometre section of Highway 1 west of Moose Jaw was temporarily closed. The RCMP said another semi-truck jack-knifed and there was at least one crash on that section Tuesday night.

In a news release, RCMP said investigators found that at aboout 7:05 p.m. CST on Tuesday, a semi collided with a tow truck attempting to rescue another semi stuck on the side of the road. Three people were taken to hospital. One had serious injuries, but none were considered life-threatening.

Highway Hotline
Highway Hotline

Steve Shaheen with the Ministry of Highways said it's been difficult to get crews out to check on people who are stranded.

"As our crews make way, freezing rain and windy conditions have created all sorts of issues for the crews," he said.

"Windy conditions prevent crews from salting. Using salt, it actually can be counter-productive by creating dangerous ruts. So as crews continue to work, it's honestly difficult to give [stranded people] a timeline."

Tony Arkles had to rescue his wife from the ditch Tuesday. He told CBC she went out on a three-kilometre drive to her family farm near Duval, Sask., which is about 80 kilometres northwest of Regina.

"Things got crazy on the way home from hanging out with her cousins," he said.

He said gravel from the road had blown into the ditch, so it was hard to see where the road was. The visibility had been OK, but turned to whiteout conditions in an instant.

He said when he and his wife eventually made it home, they were commenting on a strange metallic taste in their mouths.

"Which, turned out was because our lips were actually bleeding from all the little ice pellets hitting our faces while we were trying to deal with all this," he said with a laugh.