Trans-Canada Highway reopens after Alberta storm
Published Monday, January 10, 2011 9:44PM EST
The Trans-Canada Highway re-opened in southern Alberta Monday afternoon after a snowstorm stranded hundreds of drivers in the Calgary area for nearly 24 hours.
Blizzard conditions that brought heavy snow, high winds and reduced visibility to much of central and southern Alberta, as well as parts of Saskatchewan, closed the highway east of Calgary over the weekend.
The RCMP closed about 125 kilometres of the main east-west highway on Saturday afternoon along Calgary's eastern city limit and Bassano, but on Sunday reopened the stretch of highway between Strathmore and Calgary.
On Monday afternoon, a 234-kilometre stretch of the highway east of Calgary that had been closed in both directions between Strathmore and Redcliffe was also reopened.
The AMA website said the closures were due to "severe weather and road conditions."
RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb said "it's going to be a while" before the cars and trucks that had been left abandoned by the roadside are cleared from the highway. As many as 150 trucks were stranded on the highway and nearby side streets west of Medicine Hat at the peak of the storm.
"It will be busy with all those trucks that want to get to their destinations, as all the people do," Webb said. "They're just going to have to have patience, but they are moving in the right direction now."
Police say more than 100 people had to be rescued from their vehicles.
The storm hit Friday and continued through the weekend.
Strathmore's town council declared a local state of emergency and took in about 200 travellers who became stranded when the highway closed Saturday night. They slept in a local school gym.
Strathmore Mayor Steve Grajczyk said in the 33 years he has lived in the town, he has never seen a storm like the one that hit over the weekend.
"I come from Saskatchewan so this is a good old Saskatchewan blizzard from when I was growing up," Grajczyk. "I've seen them in my younger days but never here in Strathmore."
People who spent the night in their vehicles did their best to stay warm, using gas sparingly to heat their vehicles and listening to local radio stations for updates on the conditions and road closures.
Truckers Fred and Janet Kay, who were hauling steel along their regular route from Illinois to Calgary, said high winds and blowing snow forced their rig right off the road.
"The wind was whipping so bad it was just whipping the snow right inside my trailer," Fred Kay told CTV Calgary.
The storm was responsible for at least one fatality. A 68-year-old female passenger of a car was killed in a crash involving a Greyhound bus, three trucks and six other cars near Strathmore on Saturday afternoon.
Snow drifts as high as two metres were reported on roads around Calgary. On Monday afternoon, dozens of cars that were forced into ditches along the highway remained by the side of the road, and may be buried by high winds before the owners return for them.
CTV weather specialist Jeff Hutcheson said conditions had eased by Monday in the region, with less wind and reduced blowing snow. However, temperatures remained cold with the mercury hovering around -15 to -18 C.
With a report from CTV Calgary's Kevin Rich and files from The Canadian Press