WEATHER ALERT

First responders called to multiple crashes involving 80 vehicles amid storm

Emergency responders rushed several injured people to hospital after about 80 vehicles were involved in a series of crashes as driving conditions rapidly deteriorated in blowing snow on southern Manitoba highways on Tuesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/03/2022 (330 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Emergency responders rushed several injured people to hospital after about 80 vehicles were involved in a series of crashes as driving conditions rapidly deteriorated in blowing snow on southern Manitoba highways on Tuesday.

It was a chaotic few hours for police, paramedics and firefighters who responded to multi-vehicle collisions on blizzard-hit McGillivray Boulevard, the Trans-Canada Highway and other treacherous snow- and ice-covered routes.

Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg declared a code orange to prepare for a potential wave of mass casualty patients from two pileups that happened at about midday.

Three people were taken to hospital, after they were hurt in a crash involving about 20 vehicles on McGillivray, just east of the Perimeter Highway, said Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Rob Carver.

A crash involving multiple vehicles took place on McGillivray Boulevard been between McCreary Road and the Perimeter Highway.

One was in serious condition, another was stable and a third had less serious injuries, he said.

Headingley RCMP and Winnipeg police officers, firefighters from the Rural Municipality of Macdonald and provincial and city paramedics responded to the collision shortly after 12 p.m.

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service sent two ambulances and a supervisor to the scene of the “mass motor vehicle collision” following provincial 911’s request for help, a spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Motorists who were unscathed sheltered in their vehicles until they were shuttled to a gas station at the intersection of the Perimeter Highway and McGillivray by city and provincial emergency crews.

After the crash, McGillivray (Highway 3) was closed between the Perimeter and city limits for hours amid a blowing snow advisory issued by Environment Canada.

Tow trucks and other vehicles on McGillivray Boulevard. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Kon Paseschnikoff, owner of Bee Boyzz Honey & Meadery at 4742 McGillivray Blvd., said the collision happened on a stretch where large snowbanks cause drifts to form when snow blows onto the lanes.

He said he complained to the provincial highways department, which maintains the route, about the snowbanks a week ago because he feared there would be another crash after two collisions in the area this winter.

Closed highways

Several highways across the province were closed due to poor winter driving conditions. They include:

 Highway 59, from Winnipeg City Limits to where it intersects with Highway 216,
 Highway 1, from Headingley to Portage la Prairie,
 Highway 3, from Highway 100 (Perimeter) to Morden,
 Highway 14, from Winkler to Highway 3,
 Highway 16, from Minnedosa to Highway 50 
 Highway 100, from Highway 1 East to Highway 1 West, &
 Highway 101, from Highway 1 West to Highway 1 East.

blowing snow advisory is in effect for most of southern Manitoba.

For the latest road conditions, visit Manitoba 511.

“This was bound to happen. They’ve got to send some equipment here,” said Paseschnikoff, who lives about 300 metres from the scene. “I said there was going to be a serious accident one of these days. The snow blows in so quickly. I’ve been living here for 40 years and I’ve never seen the highway like this.”

He said about eight tow trucks removed the vehicles early in the afternoon, but the single-lane highway, which has a top speed limit of 100 km/h, remained closed due to poor weather.

A semi-truck was in the ditch, said Carver.

RM of Macdonald Coun. Deidre Keddie said sections of McGillivray have recently been “problematic” due to blowing snow.

“We have had a bad winter, and that road has had a couple of areas that drift in,” she said.

The RM has “ongoing conversations” with the province about the highway, which has family homes and is a busy route for commuters and people who drive in or out of Winnipeg, said Keddie.

“(The crash) brings to call the question of improving the infrastructure around the city,” she said. “We need a better Perimeter.”

Susan MacPherson, co-owner of Jensen’s Nursery and Garden Centre, said there is occasionally talk of twinning McGillivray to make it safer.

“Sadly, (crashes) are a too common occurrence on this stretch,” she said. “The amount of times we hear sirens, it’s too often.”

A spokesperson for the province said sudden changes in weather can make driving conditions dangerous.

“I said there was going to be a serious accident one of these days. The snow blows in so quickly. I’ve been living here for 40 years and I’ve never seen the highway like this.” – Kon Paseschnikoff

“The province works diligently to clear, sand or salt roadways as frequently as possible, but this has been a particularly challenging season,” the spokesperson said. “Manitobans are reminded to drive with caution, and always adjust their driving to meet current road conditions.”

In a tweet about 90 minutes after the McGillivray crash, the RCMP said highways had “severely deteriorated” throughout Tuesday morning, resulting in the Perimeter Highway and other major routes being closed due to unsafe driving conditions.

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Headingley and Portage la Prairie, after several vehicles were involved in a crash west of the St. Francois Xavier turnoff.

Brooke deBruin said she had to steer her eastbound car into the ditch to avoid crashing into vehicles involved in the Highway 1 incident at about 12:45 p.m.

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Headingley and Portage la Prairie, after several vehicles were involved in a crash. (Brooke deBruin photo / Twitter)

A semi-truck was demolished and about six other vehicles had also crashed.

Other vehicles crashed while she was at the scene.

DeBruin said the injured truck driver was holding a dog in his arms and appeared to be in shock.

“It was really bad,” she said of the scene.

Visibility was zero at the time, she said.

Carver said police had received reports of up to 80 vehicles involved in collisions or ending up in ditches on highways west of Winnipeg in the space of a few hours.

Whiteout conditions were reported in many areas, he said.

Environment Canada’s blowing snow advisory warned of northwest wind gusts of up to 80 km/h and near-zero visibility in bands of flurries.

RCMP urged drivers to stay off highways.

A spokesman for Shared Health confirmed a code orange had been issued at HSC.

“This alert was issued to support the creation of capacity in the emergency department for a potential increase in patient demand related to a number of multi-vehicle collisions that occurred within a short period of time,” the spokesman said.

“This alert (code orange) was issued to support the creation of capacity in the emergency department for a potential increase in patient demand.” – Shared Health spokesman

The alert ended when officials determined only a small number of patients would need to be taken to the hospital.

Some highways in southern Manitoba have been icy for days amid a spell of mild weather and blowing snow.

In recent weeks, drivers have had to deal with multiple blizzards and freezing rain, which shut down a number of highways.

Three people were taken to hospital Feb. 24 after roughly 25 vehicles were involved in a pileup on Highway 1 between Griswold and Alexander.

— with files from Katie May

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Tow trucks and other vehicles at the scene of the crash on McGillivray Boulevard, about a kilometre from the Perimeter Highway. (Kon Paseschnikoff photo)
Tow trucks and other vehicles at the scene of the crash on McGillivray Boulevard, about a kilometre from the Perimeter Highway. (Kon Paseschnikoff photo)

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 2:46 PM CST: adds code orange detail

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 3:00 PM CST: Adds photo.

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 3:12 PM CST: adds resident

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 3:32 PM CST: Updates blocked road at Columbia Drive

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 4:03 PM CST: writethru

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 4:25 PM CST: updates highway closures

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 7:02 PM CST: Adds deBruin quote

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 7:30 PM CST: Adds Hwy 59 closure to factbox

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 7:56 PM CST: Highway closures updated

Updated on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 8:37 PM CST: Fixing formatting of box.

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