Manitobans were reminded of what a blizzard feels like when howling winds and an expected 10 to 15 centimetres of snow blew through southern Manitoba Friday night.
RCMP were warning motorists to avoid highways if possible. Many flights were delayed Friday evening at Richardson International Airport and many rural school divisions cancelled classes.
"We're expecting the conditions to be really bad," said Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada, heading into Friday night. Snowfall was expected to be whipped up and sculpted into deep snowdrifts by northerly winds of 50 km/h gusting up to 70 km/h.
The City of Winnipeg said it could be looking at a $3-million to $4-million cleanup if the blizzard turns out to be as severe as forecast.
A 10- to 15-cm snowfall is almost just a "normal" cleanup costing in the $750,000 range, said Ken Boyd, city manager of streets and maintenance.
It's the wind in this storm that 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 streets in addition to just main thoroughfares and bus routes.
Also, because strong winds of 40 to 60 km/h could last into Sunday, streets may need to be cleaned more than once even though snow is expected to stop Saturday morning. Wind could also fill in sidewalks, he said.
A wind chill of -34 was expected overnight Friday due to unabated northerly winds of 50 km/h gusting to 70 km/h.
The Colorado low moved in from the Dakotas, crossing the border into southern Manitoba Friday afternoon. That was on the heels of overnight freezing drizzle.
On Friday evening, the province announced the Trans-Canada Highway was closed from Headingley to Virden.
In Winnipeg, up to 150 plows, loaders and sand and salt spreaders were to roll out Friday night on main routes, bus routes and collector streets. About 25 spreader trucks were on the streets early Friday already, after overnight freezing rain made roads slick.
The city's snow-clearing budget for 2013 is $31 million and this will be the year's first major cleanup.
The blizzard was expected to end this morning when winds will still be 40 km/h gusting to 60 km/h. The forecast high is -19 C with a windchill of -35.
Meanwhile, at least 50 passengers were stranded at the Greyhound bus depot at the city's airport Friday night. Some had been stranded since Thursday night. The majority of passengers booked themselves into a hotel at their own expense but at least seven were spending the night in the hard chairs inside the depot.