Not seeing is believing

Blizzard-like conditions, brutal winds, extreme cold wreak havoc on province


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Hammered with a blizzard warning, an extreme-cold warning and high winds, Winnipeggers and Manitobans were probably wondering what hit them Thursday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/01/2017 (2216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hammered with a blizzard warning, an extreme-cold warning and high winds, Winnipeggers and Manitobans were probably wondering what hit them Thursday.

A bad weather trifecta? Nope, Manitoba experienced what’s now being called a Mackenzie clipper.

David Phillips, Environment Canada’s senior climatologist, said the term was coined recently by the weather office in Winnipeg to describe the type of weather system that rolled through southern Manitoba with a vengeance Thursday.

“It’s like an Alberta clipper, but it originates higher north, around the Mackenzie River,” Phillips said.

“I’d never heard the term before. But an Alberta clipper starts in the lee of the Rockies or the foothills and brings snow, high winds and cold temperatures, while this came from the Mackenzie region and moves a bit faster. It brought blowing snow with whiteout conditions followed by extreme cold. That’s why they’re calling it a Mackenzie Clipper.”

Phillips said typically it’s weather forecasters working the night shift who come up with weather terms like this.

“It was the Americans in Minneapolis that came up with Manitoba Masher and Saskatchewan Slasher,” he said.

Whatever the weather system is called, everyone could see the effects it had here.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Firefighters at the scene of a 12-car pileup at McPhillips St. and the Perimeter in white-out conditions.


Not a good morning

The brunt of the weather hit during the hours when the majority of people were heading either to work or school, so, in rural areas, that all came to a halt when many school divisions either ordered closures or buses off the road.

The RCMP closed several highways for hours including the Trans-Canada Highway from Headingley to Austin, Highway 59 from Winnipeg to the U.S. border, Highway 8 from Highway 101 to Highway 229, and Highway 9 from Winnipeg’s city limits to Highway 9A (Selkirk).

It was the type of conditions where even Canada Post called it a day and cancelled all mail delivery in rural areas.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Abandoned vehicles litter Hwy. 3 Thursday.


Travel turbulence

Wanted to get on a plane and fly away? Too bad, because Richardson International Airport suffered major delays and some flight cancellations because of the high winds. By early evening, the airport’s website was still showing a large number of delayed or cancelled flights.

“Along with the blowing snow comes a challenge to our de-icing facility,” Winnipeg Airports Authority spokesman Tyler MacAfee said.

“Spraying the planes down with winds this high is tricky, so that’s been taking longer than usual.”

Garbage collection trashed

For people who only wanted their garbage and recyclables to take flight, the city started the day picking up garbage and recyclables but had to suspend it for a few hours. A city spokeswoman said blowing snow had caused zero visibility at the Brady Road Resource Management Facility, formerly the Brady Road Landfill. She said garbage and recycling collection did start again in the afternoon, but pickup was expected to be “slower than normal.”

The spokeswoman said if Thursday was the homeowner’s collection day and nothing was picked up by 10 p.m., put the carts out again today.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A pedestrian faces strong winds and extreme cold along Main St. Thursday morning.


Transit troubles

Frustrated — and cold —Winnipeg Transit users were expressing their concerns on social media when buses never came to their stop or were already filled with passengers by the time they arrived.

A Winnipeg Transit spokeswoman said four of the 511 buses on the road stalled during the morning rush, while 12 other buses were forced to drive past waiting passengers because they were already full. They were advising Transit users to allow for extra travel time for the ride home.

Civic officials said they were continuing to monitor the city’s road network and were ordering spot plowing in areas where drifting snow is a problem. They said crews were out putting sand down at slippery intersections.

Too cold for polar bears

Wanted to see if the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s polar bears were frolicking in the conditions? You couldn’t — the zoo was closed because of the weather.

Thaw is coming

There are two lights at the end of this freezing-cold tunnel.

Phillips said while the temperatures are now bitterly cold and well below the normal high of -13 C, Environment Canada is predicting warmer temperatures, which might actually crack to above freezing by next week.

“It may be a January thaw,” he said.

The other good news, Phillips said, is Jan. 13 is considered the midpoint of winter in Winnipeg.

“People say Dec. 21 is the shortest day of the year and many point to that, but I say this day is really the dead of winter. From now on there will be more winter behind you than ahead of you.”

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A pedestrian dashes across Portage Avenue at Maryland Street Thursday morning as high winds cause blowing snow.
Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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