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This article was published 12/10/2019 (413 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Premier Brian Pallister has declared a state of emergency in response to a massive snowstorm that slammed Manitoba heading into the Thanksgiving weekend.

"I have spoken to Manitoba Hydro and they have officially made a request to declare a state of emergency, which gives them the power to access additional resources, supplies, materials," Pallister said.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Damaged Manitboa Hydro lines are seen on Oct. 12 after the snow storm.</p>

SUPPLIED

Damaged Manitboa Hydro lines are seen on Oct. 12 after the snow storm.

"(This will help) restore power as quick as possible. We’ll be proceeding to grant that request."

The storm knocked down hundreds of power lines and forced the closure of dozens of highways. More snow fell on Winnipeg than the city has had in all of October in any single year.

As of Saturday evening, more than 50,000 Manitobans were without power.

Pallister said some sections of the province could be without power for the next four to five days.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>David Firman shovels the wet, heavy snow from the sidewalk on Raglan Road on Saturday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

David Firman shovels the wet, heavy snow from the sidewalk on Raglan Road on Saturday.

"There are numerous power outages to critical infrastructure. We had, earlier i(Saturday), outages at some critical health-care facilities. My understanding is alternate forms of power are available in all cases," Pallister said.

"But the City of Portage la Prairie, and much of the central part of the province, is without power as we speak."

Winnipeg received 34 cm of snow from Thursday evening to Saturday morning. During the peak of the storm, the wind was gusting at 80 km/h.

"This was a two-day wonder. There’s never been a total October snowfall, for a whole month, all 31 days, that’s more than what you just saw," said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

"So when you get a one-day or a two-day event that eclipses the whole monthly record, that shows you how significant it is. There’s never been an earlier huge snowfall that even comes close."

Chaos descended on the city as the weather intensified; Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman urged people to keep off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

On Friday, he said if businesses could send their employees home early, it would be best for everyone.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Margarete Moulden (left), Morgan MacDonell and Theresa Proctor carry a tree limb off of Theresa's vehicle and down the street in Wolseley on Saturday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Margarete Moulden (left), Morgan MacDonell and Theresa Proctor carry a tree limb off of Theresa's vehicle and down the street in Wolseley on Saturday.

"Right now, the No. 1 priority continues to be life safety, so this is of course making sure that our citizens are safe around downed power lines," Bowman said Saturday morning.

Bowman also revealed someone had been injured by a felled tree on Friday. The individual was rushed to hospital in critical condition.

Seven intersections in Winnipeg did not have working traffic lights as of Saturday morning. At least 50 city crews were working to clear downed trees throughout the city and there had been roughly 2,000 calls to 311 to report fallen trees or branches.

Winnipeg Transit had significant delays Saturday due to the weather, and all municipal recreation facilities and libraries were closed for the day.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said home-care service was significantly delayed.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service responding to 870 calls relating to downed Manitoba Hydro lines.

"It’s been a bit of a prairie whitewasher, it’s a surprise, it’s a sneak attack," Phillips said.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Nava Davidson, six (top), and Kara Davidson, eight, toboggan on a snowy fall day at Omand's Creek on Saturday.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Nava Davidson, six (top), and Kara Davidson, eight, toboggan on a snowy fall day at Omand's Creek on Saturday.

"But it’s the amount of (snow) that’s historic, the fact you’re getting so much of it in a short period of time. You’ve never had a whole monthly total of that amount."

The chaos extended to the Winnipeg airport, where Michelle Samagalski said the weather caused headaches for passengers Friday.

Her flight, which had come in from Toronto, landed safely, but shortly after touching down she said the plane got stuck in a snow drift.

"It was just a matter of there being an enormous accumulation of drifted snow that was up against the plane," Samagalski said.

At first, passengers were told plows would be sent to dig out the plane, but when that failed, buses were sent to ship the passengers and crew to the terminal, she said.

The process took two hours.

"It was very organized, nobody panicked, it was calm. But it was quite an inconvenience," Samagalski said.

Manitoba Hydro crews worked around the clock to restore power to as many people as possible, but Owen said employees are only able to work 16-hour shifts before mandated to go home for safety concerns.

"It’s not so much a staffing issue or an equipment issue. It’s a weather issue," Owen said.

"We can’t give an estimated restoration time to our customers right now, because it would almost be misleading. All we can say is we’re working as diligently as we can."

Owen said the situation was complicated by the fact that many of the power outages stemmed from felled trees.

It’s one thing to have a power outage, it’s another thing to have a power outage caused by a fallen tree, he said.

"There’s a lot of trees down... Private contractors are working for us to remove some of these trees and remove them in high-priority areas," Owen said.

"With so many trees down, that takes a lot of time. First we have to clear the trees, then we have to go in and assess what the damage is."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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