Massive winter storm dumps 70 cm of snow on some parts of southern Alberta

A massive winter storm dumped up to 40 centimetres of snow on Calgary and at least 70 centimetres in other parts of southern Alberta, causing cancelled flights and chaos on the roads with dozens of collisions and stuck cars and buses.

Roads in Calgary were a slippery mess Tuesday morning and sidewalks were blanketed in shin-deep snow.

Environment Canada says total accumulations in Calgary ranged from 20 to 40 centimetres. To the west, in Kananaskis Country, accumulations of as much as 70 centimetres were reported in some places.

The snowfall was expected to taper off through the day on Tuesday, said Environment Canada meteorologist Blaine Lowry.

WATCH: Calgary man snowmobiles for coffee:

Plenty of cars got stuck in the heavy snow that hit Calgary on Dec. 22, 2020, but this guy wasn’t going to let the weather interfere with his morning coffee run. (Video: Travis Norwegian) 0:10

“What we’re dealing with now is some gusting northerly winds, so 30 km/h winds with gusts up to 50 out of the north are causing reduced visibility in the area of the Calgary airport with visibility at three quarters of a mile,” he said. 

Blowing snow reduced the Trans-Canada Highway to single lane traffic in spots near Canmore as the snowfall and winter storm warnings persisted all through southern Alberta and well into the central region of the province.

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From 6 a.m. to about 10 a.m., there were 10 non-injury collisions and two that resulted in injuries in Calgary, according to police. And from 5 p.m. on Monday as the storm began, until about 6 a.m. Tuesday, there were 44 non-injury collisions, 10 collisions that resulted in injuries and nine hit and runs.

Calgary’s transportation department tweeted about numerous stalled and stuck vehicles on city roads.

“Right now, our crews are focused on high volume, priority one routes. And we’ll continue focusing on those routes,” said city roads spokesperson Chris McGeachy.

“It’s all hands on deck and we thank people for their patience as we work to get the roads in good condition.”

This was the scene in Oakridge in southwest Calgary early Tuesday morning. Some parts of the city got as much as 30 centimetres of snow overnight. (Bruce Bynoe)

A Calgary Transit Access vehicle had to be towed after getting stuck in the snow on Tuesday morning. (Sunil Verma)

McGeachy said the city has 59 sanders and 12 graders out clearing the snow, plus four additional contracted graders that were called in to assist. 

Calgary Transit is warning that many bus routes are running detours due to the snow.

“Due to current weather conditions expect delays and detours. We are unable to provide you with an ETA.” Calgary Transit tweeted.

The storm started off the coast of British Columbia, walloped the B.C. Interior and then moved through the southern part of Alberta starting Monday.

Many roadways in Calgary were treacherous on Tuesday after a major snowstorm hit southern Alberta. Vehicles went off the road at Barlow Trail and Airport Trail because of the slick conditions. (City of Calgary)

Highway sections reduced to single lanes, flights affected

As of 2 p.m., Environment Canada says a corner of southern Alberta still is still under a winter storm warning. A swath of the province’s north is under an extreme cold warning.

Environment Canada said the snowfall and winter storm warnings that were issued on Monday remained in effect Tuesday morning all through southern Alberta and well into the central region of the province.

“Heavy snow will continue to fall over the region this morning before ending north to south this afternoon,” the agency said of the Calgary area.

Calgary Transit said all of its bus routes have been affected by the snowstorm and all routes are behind schedule as a result. (Laurent T.-B)

An additional two to four centimetres of snow could fall in areas near Red Deer, and as much as 10 more centimetres is forecast for areas around Calgary before it tapers off later on Tuesday.

Environment Canada said motorists should consider postponing non-essential travel. In some areas south of Calgary, wind gusts up to 80 km/h are expected to produce blowing snow until late Tuesday afternoon.

RCMP are warning motorists to avoid travel on Highway 40 in Kananaskis Country west of Calgary. 

“Road conditions are extremely poor due to accumulating snow and poor visibility,” a release said. 

Canmore RCMP also advised against non-essential travel on Highway 1 west from Exit 114 to the Banff Park gates, saying road conditions are poor with single-lane traffic in both directions as road crews work on clearing drifting and blowing snow.

As of 3:45 p.m. Environment Canada listed no weather alerts for southern Alberta but a large swatch of northern Alberta remains under an extreme cold warning. (Environment Canada)

The Calgary International Airport is warning travellers that the storm could affect flights and that they should check with airlines on departure and arrivals times and leave extra time to get to the airport. A couple of arriving flights had to be diverted to Edmonton on Monday night because of the snow, the airport said.

WestJet said it had made 35 cancellations as of about 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Calgary Fire Department spokesperson Carol Henke says when shovelling snow around a home, it’s important to remember to move it away from the fresh air intake so that carbon monoxide doesn’t build up inside. It’s also vital to have working carbon monoxide alarms, she said. 

Storm moving east

Kyle Brittain, The Weather Network’s Calgary bureau chief, said the storm system is expected to move through Saskatchewan and Manitoba later on Tuesday and reach Ontario by Wednesday.

“It’s kind of like this gift from Mother Nature, if you will, for folks hoping for a white Christmas,” he said.

Calgarian Williams Chirinos, who was out shovelling to make room on the street to park his vehicle, said he really didn’t mind the snow.

“Actually I feel quite well, because I think we need to have a white Christmas,” he said. “It’s OK, no big deal.”

WATCH | Dogs play in Alberta snow dump:

Who’s excited about all the snow in Calgary? These good dogs are. 0:11

Check out more of the great pictures people have shared:

A vehicle is buried in snow on a residential street in Auburn Bay. (Inam Jamil)

Environment Canada says Calgary got from 20 to 40 centimetres of snow from Monday night to Tuesday morning. (CBC)

The big snow dump wasn’t enough to deter Chris Bolin’s cat from going outside to explore. (Chris Bolin)

The snow seemed to put a frowny face on this Jeep. (Steve A. Armstrong)

At least it will be a white Christmas. (Sunil Verma)