March may have come in like a lamb on Friday, but by Sunday night it had turned into a lion with Environment Canada saying Winnipeg had been walloped by about 15 centimetres of snow overnight Sunday and into Monday.
It was enough for the city to announce it was deploying more than 400 pieces of snow-clearing equipment beginning on Monday at 7 p.m.
But this was a far cry from what hit the city on March 4, 1966, when more than 38 centimetres of snow fell, accompanied by winds gusting up to 112 kilometres per hour, and paralyzed the city.
Police needed snowmobiles to get around the city, while volunteers who had them also snowmobiled to get prescriptions to homes and patients to hospitals.
The good thing about 1966’s blizzard? It fell on a Friday so city snow crews had Friday and the weekend to clean a lot of it up before Monday.
This time around, the snow fell on the first work day of the week and the city expects it will take until Friday to clean every street — including residential streets — as well as sidewalks, bike routes, and back alleys.
Here’s what happened on Monday:
The city declared war on the snowstorm and said it was deploying more than 400 pieces of snow-clearing equipment starting on Monday at 7 p.m.
Cheryl Anderson, the city’s acting manager of streets maintenance, told reporters that hundreds of graders, trucks, spreaders and sidewalk plows will work 24 hours a day this week clearing main streets, bus routes and collector streets.
Anderson said back alleys will begin being plowed today starting at 7 a.m.
Then, Anderson said, the city will begin clearing all residential streets starting Wednesday at 7 p.m., by putting parking bans on snow zones C, I, M, O, S and V until 7 a.m.
That will be followed by zones D, F, H, K, N, R, and U on Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., zones E, G, J, L, P, Q, and T on Thursday from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., zone B on Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and zone A on Friday from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
"We’re anticipating to clear the snow as quickly as we can," she said.
"We’re hoping by the end of the week."
The city says vehicles parked illegally on a declared snow route parking ban will receive a $100 ticket, $50 if paid early, and could be towed to the towing companies compound.
Those in violation of the residential parking ban will get a $150 fine or $75 if paid early, and could be towed to a nearby street.
Call 311 to find your vehicle if it has been towed.
Anderson said sidewalks will be cleared as well, with the same priority as the streets beside them. The city says bike paths are on the same priority list.
Anderson admitted it is unusual for the city’s first residential snow plow of the winter to be in March.
She said she doesn’t know yet what it will cost to clear the dump of snow the city has received since Sunday night.
"It’s too early to tally the numbers, but I know it will be in the millions."
Southwestern Manitoba was hit with about 30 centimetres of snow, far more than Winnipeg, Environment Canada said.
The weather service was expecting Winnipeg to receive another two to four centimetres of snow during the day on Monday.
Numerous schools and school divisions across southern Manitoba were closed on Monday.
In Winnipeg, schools were open, but school buses were cancelled for the day.
In Winnipeg School Division alone, that meant 2,587 students had to find another way to get to school or spend the day at home.
Radean Carter, the WSD’s spokeswoman, said there were some power issues at Gordon Bell High School in the morning and some problems with phone and Internet connection at Fort Rouge School, but that was it.
Carter said it’s too early to predict if school buses will be running or not today.
"The determination on whether buses will run is made by 6 a.m. each morning and posted on our website and communicated to media as soon as possible after that if they are not running," she said.
The University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and Red River College were open on Monday.
City spokeswoman Michelle Finley said if Monday was when garbage and recycling was supposed to be picked up, Winnipeggers should look in their carts to see if they are empty or not.
"People should keep them out until 10 p.m., but if they haven’t been picked up by then, take them in, and then make sure they’re put out again by 7 a.m.," she said.
Finley said fire and paramedic trucks were running slower because of the weather, so the city had deployed extra ambulances to help.
She said Winnipeg Transit reported on Monday morning it was experiencing service delays and it was expected the same type of delays would occur during the evening rush hour.
Finley said all civic swimming pools and libraries were open and programming was continuing as scheduled, but it is urging people to avoid visiting cemeteries until the roadways there are plowed.
Erika Miller, a spokeswoman for CAA, said first it was the snow filling the streets and then it was calls from members looking for a tow filling the phone lines.
Miller said hundreds of Winnipeggers needed their stuck vehicles towed on Monday morning.
"We did more (tows) this morning than we did all of January," she said. "They’re getting stuck in a snowbank or getting stuck in the street.
"By 2 p.m., we had 360 calls cleared across the province, with the majority, 260, in Winnipeg."
For those lucky enough to have airline tickets to escape the remnants of the storm, Tyler MacAfee, spokesman for the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, said there were some cancellations and delays in the morning, but by mid-afternoon everything was running closer to normal.
"We saw overnight to early morning five cancellations," MacAfee said. "Some were because the plane didn’t come in and so it doesn’t go back out.
"But things are pretty good now (3:30 p.m.)... the airport is open and everything is running."
— with files from Alexandra Paul and Carol Sanders
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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