Winnipeg’s salting and sanding trucks will work "around-the-clock" to help improve traction on city streets tonight and Saturday morning, according to the city.
"With a large number of pieces of heavy equipment out on the roadways and reduced visibility due to high winds, we are asking motorists to use extra care and caution," said Ken Boyd, manager of streets maintenance with the City of Winnipeg.
And that means Winnipeg could be looking at a $3-4 million cleanup if the blizzard turns out as severe as forecast, the City of Winnipeg said today.
A 10-15 centimetre snowfall, as projected, is almost just a "normal" cleanup costing in the $750,000 range, said Boyd.
It's when you factor in the wind that this storm could drive up costs. Wind causes drifting which could require graders in addition to truck plows to clear snow. It could also require clearing of residential street in addition to just main thoroughfares and bus routes.
Also, because strong winds of 40-60 km/h are predicted for several days, streets may need to be cleaned more than once even though snow is expected to stop Saturday morning.
As it is, up to 150 plows, loaders, and sand and salt spreaders will be on Winnipeg roads tonight and Saturday morning clearing streets.
Right now, there are more than 25 spreader trucks on city street. Once snow starts to accumulate later today, a truck-plowing operation will start on main routes, bus routes and collector streets to keep streets clear and passable.
The city snow-clearing budget for 2013 is $31 million and this will be the first major cleanup.
The winter storm moving in from the Dakotas will hit southern Manitoba this afternoon and move into Winnipeg by the evening.
The day began in the city with freezing drizzle and will go out with a blizzard. The temperature is expected to fall to -14 C this afternoon and the windchill will hit -26 as winds gust to 60 km/h.
A full-fledged blizzard will hit Winnipeg by tonight with a snowfall of 10 to 15 cm, winds north at 50 km/h gusting to 70 km/h and a wind chill of -34.
Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada, said she’s tracking a Colorado low system that’s currently sitting in the northern part of South Dakota but is expected to move into southeastern Manitoba this afternoon.
"The enhanced snow will start later today. We’re expecting the conditions to be really bad," she said.
If you don’t absolutely have to drive today and Saturday, she recommends staying off the roads.
"You should reschedule whatever you planning on doing. If you’ve got a business meeting, see if it can be done by teleconference," she said.
A number of highways, including Trans-Canada East and Highway 75, are ice covered, and motorists are strongly encouraged to drive with caution.
Brad Milne, road information clerk with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation, said sanding and salting crews have been dispatched and he’s hopeful they can stay ahead of the weather.
The blizzard is expected to end Saturday morning, when winds will still be 40 km/h gusting to 60 km/h but diminishing around noon. The forecast high is -19 C with a windchill of -35.
Sunday and Monday will be sunny and cold with highs in the low minus 20s but Tuesday should provide a brief reprieve with periods of snow and a high of 1C.
More seasonal temperatures are forecast to return by mid-week.
A reminder to Winnipeggers that the annual Snow Route Parking Ban remains in effect from to March 1, and vehicles are prohibited from parking on designated snow routes between the hours of 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. Tickets of $100 ($50 if paid early) will be issued, and vehicles might also be towed.