Winter storm pummels Edmonton, tow bans and travel advisories issued

A winter storm enveloped Edmonton and central Alberta on Monday, combining almost four seasons' worth of weather in one day.

The storm began in the early afternoon by dumping between two to six millimetres of rain that changed to snow before the supper hour as winds gusted up to 58 km/h to create near white-out conditions.

Temperatures plunged from plus 2 degrees Celsius at 11 a.m. to minus 24 with windchill at 7 p.m.

The rain froze as it landed, icing up walks and roadways throughout the city and capital region, evidenced by dozens of crashes.

Edmonton police said there were 190 reported collisions between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., including six that left people injured. 

City trucks going for a dive this morning as they try to put sand on the roads #yeg #yegtraffic pic.twitter.com/lgdy3tZa2d

— Aman Jaggi (@Aman5ingh) January 17, 2022

About 40 vehicles ended up in ditches along 23 Avenue in southwest Edmonton. Police asked drivers to avoid both west and eastbound 23 Avenue between 119 Street and Magrath Road until the blockage was cleared. No one was hurt, police said, but several vehicles sustained “minor damage.” 

Crews had the hill sanded before noon. 

The city’s supervisor of field operations said road maintenance began Sunday night in anticipation of the freezing rain. 

“We called in additional staff to get them into sander trucks and try to get some material out there ahead of the freezing rain,” Andrew Grant told CTV News Edmonton. 

The strategy is to target top priority roads first – those with higher speeds and volumes of traffic – as well as known problem areas like the river valley, hills and bridge decks. 

“With the temperature that is forecasted here over the next 48 hours, it’s absolutely critical our crews get those areas back down to bare pavement and just reduce the risk of any ice formation on those areas.”

“The freezing rain earlier this morning has made city streets extremely slippery,” Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Scott Pattison said. 

“If you have to go out this morning, please drive slow and maintain a healthy space between you and the other vehicles on the road.”

Near ellerslie road and 173 st #yegtraffic Hopefully now its cleared. pic.twitter.com/3G3MTnxHQ2

— Afifa Gilani (@afifa_gilani) January 18, 2022

Traffic was also redirected outside of St. Albert because of a collision on Villeneuve Road near Range Road 260. Commuters were asked to avoid the area between Ray Gibbon Drive and Range Road 261. 

16A Westbound from Edmonton. Winds from the north creating whiteout conditions. Went from 0 to - 10 In the span of an hour. #abstorm #ABRoads pic.twitter.com/zscgmlw8Y6

— Guy Q (@GuyQuenneville) January 18, 2022

More than 5,500 EPCOR customers in south and west Edmonton were affected by power outages due to trees knocking wires down.

The utility provider said the outages occurred just after 9 a.m. and disrupted service until around noon. 

TRAFFIC HAZARD EMERGENCY ALERTS ISSUED

At 4:25 p.m., an Alberta Emergency Alert was updated saying driving conditions throughout Parkland County were "potentially dangerous and very poor."

The alert recommended people restrict travel Monday evening and overnight to "essential travel only."

"Travel is not recommended on roadways in Parkland County, including highways 16, 16A, 43, 44, 770, and 779," the emergency alert read.

"Emergency services and roadway maintenance vehicles are active throughout the County," it added. "Slow down and drive to conditions if you must drive."

Traffic Hazard Alert Updated Jan17 425PM Take necessary precautions. Parkland County https://t.co/L8ht6OCtPQ #ABemerg

— AB Emergencyalert (@AB_EmergAlert) January 17, 2022

After 7 p.m., another Emergency Alert was issued for central Alberta, including along Highway 2 between 41 Avenue SW in Edmonton to around Bowden, Alta. Leduc RCMP issued a tow ban covering that area to just north of Millet, Alta.

"Heavy snow, icy conditions and strong winds causing blowing snow are creating dangerous driving with whiteout conditions," the alert said. 

"Area highways and roads may be closed without notice," it added. "Drivers are instructed not to travel in this area.

"Delay all non-essential travel until conditions improve. Use extreme caution when travelling on impacted roads and highways."

Dangerous Highway Conditions Alert Jan17 716PM Take necessary precautions. Parts of Central... https://t.co/L8ht6OCtPQ #ABemerg

— AB Emergencyalert (@AB_EmergAlert) January 18, 2022

INCOMING STORM 

A low-pressure weather system is driving the storm. Rain is expected to become snow by Monday afternoon and wind will follow. Temperatures will drop to the -20s and -30s on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“It’s not very often our operations see literally four different seasons in one day, so we’re going to continue to change and adapt to whatever the season of the hour is as the next 24 to 48 hours passes by,” Grant commented. 

The bout of freezing rain is one of several the Edmonton region has seen since mid-December, so it’s not the first time this season Grant’s crews have had to change strategies. 

“(We’re) using all kinds of tools from ice blades to rock chip to salt to sand, so we’re definitely running through our repertoire of tools this year,” he said. 

“It’d be nice to get a little bit of a reprieve from the weather, but Mother Nature doesn’t always see it that way.”