Whats open and closed around Winnipeg over the Thanksgiving weekend – Global News

Whats open and closed around Winnipeg over the Thanksgiving weekend - Global News
The weather is our enemy: Manitoba snowstorm shuts highways, closes schools, snaps trees
While Winnipeg and much of southern Manitoba will be spending some of the Thanksgiving weekend cleaning up from the latest blast of snow, rain and wind, some stores and businesses will be adjusting their hours on Thanksgiving Monday.

READ MORE: Winnipeg mayor asks employers to consider letting workers go home early as Colorado low pounds Manitoba

A storm that has draped southern Manitoba in heavy, sticky snow is causing havoc on highways, and knocking down trees and power lines.

On Friday afternoon, Portage la Prairie RCMP tweeted to advise motorists that due to the numerous road closures and poor weather conditions, tow trucks were not able to respond to any towing requests until further notice and all hotels and motels were full. The Herman Prior Centre was being opened to accommodate stranded travellers.RCMP were advising that if you must travel, ensure you have a safety kit and cell phone.

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed between Brandon and Headingley — one of many road closures — while more than 47,000 Manitoba Hydro customers were in the dark at 1:30 p.m. CT, including over 27,000 in Winnipeg.

Repairs will be delayed because of the treacherous conditions and all the downed trees and branches, Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said. 

"We understand completely people's frustration and the inconvenience to this. We are working as quickly as we can and as safely as we can to restore power as soon as possible," Owen said.

Police direct traffic due to a fallen traffic light at Confusion Corner on Osborne Street in Winnipeg during the snow storm on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. GLEN DAWKINS/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network   GLEN DAWKINS/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network

The storm arrived so early this fall that most trees are still loaded with leaves, which are now supporting the snow and causing the branches to bear more weight than normal.

Trees at my workplace are taking a beating, branches are broken, smaller trees couldn't deal with the weight. Hoping the trees around my house are ok. #mbstorm #Winnipeg #winnipegweather #Winterpeg #WinterIsHere #WinterStorm pic.twitter.com/uKEh4IqEQO

"And they are coming down on our [power] lines," said Owen, urging the public to be careful.

“It’s a lot of weight that they’re not used to having to carry, and that’s what causing them to bend over like that, and obviously they break at a certain point when they’re not able to withstand it anymore.”

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"What we're seeing right now is that a lot of folks are taking pictures and video of downed lines, of sparking transformers, to post on social media, and they're getting too close. It's just not worth it."

Also, notify our Contact Centre at 1-888-MBHYDRO or 204-360-5900 so we can get a crew there as quickly as possible to make the area safe. It may take some time to get through, but public safety is our first priority.

Manitoba Hydro and the City of Winnipeg are hiring private contractors to remove the downed branches and trees.

“If the snow stays on there a long time it will kinda deform the limbs, so if you’re able to – and if it’s not too high, obviously – that will improve their chances of making it through this.

Stephane Dorge posted a video on Twitter of one of those sparking transformers, which then exploded, on Rue Jeanne d'Arc near the hospital in the city's St. Boniface area.

The downed trees caused havoc for Manitoba Hydro, which was trying to restore power to more than 37,000 customers across the province — including more than 26,000 in Winnipeg — by 10 a.m. Friday.

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"That happened in our backyard too! Crazy loud electrical hum and spectacular flames," she wrote. "We'll probably be out of power for a while."

“We’re still responding to, I think we’re over 342 calls for power lines in the last little while, and we’re two-and-a-half times the regular call volumes for 911 services, Shaw told 680 CJOB.

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Matt Vinet, a manager at Green Drop, one of the yard maintenance companies contracted to do the work, called the situation "a tree apocalypse."

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services assistant chief, Jay Shaw, who heads up the citys emergency centre, confirmed the injuries but couldnt give any more details on the person injured by the fallen tree.

"I don't mean to be so alarmist, but it looks pretty grim at this point. We're going to see a lot of damage to a lot of trees," he said.

Two people were injured in Winnipeg Friday as a Colorado low continued to pound the city — including one person taken to hospital in critical condition after a tree branch fell on them.

"And those are the big old trees. It's going to affect a lot of the smaller ones, too, of course but some of the big elms — we're going to have pretty catastrophic damage to irreplaceable trees."

If you see a line on the ground, just assume it is still live. Stay away from it, keep others away from it and call 911 immediately, said Hydro spokesperson, Scott Powell in a release.

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Vinet said he's been working at the job for 2½ decades and has never seen anything like this in early October.

"I've never seen wet snow on trees with leaves still on them. The two just generally don't coincide in our climate," he said. "This is the perfect storm for the [tree] apocalypse."

Around the Vita area, thunderstorm activity was observed and radar imagery shows thunderstorms taking place in an area of mixed precipitation or ice pellets and snow as well.

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Anyone coming across a downed line needs to call 911 because it's a public safety matter, Owen said.

Thunderstorms in the snow are harder to hear so you may not have heard them — but if you saw any of the lightning, you’ve witnessed an uncommon event.

"Emergency officials will get in contact with us, and we will come and de-energize it as quickly as possible."

There also appeared to more lightning at this time east of Winnipeg close to Oak Lake and Windy Lake, north of the Trans-Canada Highway.

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Owen also advised people to avoid the temptation to try knocking the snow and ice off of their trees, especially if they can't see where the service line is going into a home.

"The risk is you're going to come into contact with the line or break a branch and bring down the line as you're standing underneath it."

But the rare weather phenomenon has been part of the early blast of winter pummeling southern Manitoba.

In addition to trees toppling around Winnipeg, some traffic lights have come down, while others stopped working.

In Manitoba, it appears Mother Nature didnt get the memo that its fall. Instead, the province was blanketed with snow and there could be more coming. Environment Canada warns that up to 50 cm of snow could fall in the area by Friday night. Because of the dumping of snow, Manitoba highway conditions are so terrible that travelling might be impossible. 

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Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has asked people to avoid non-essential travel if possible. He has also suggested that employers consider letting staff go home early.

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"That's obviously something, if it could be accommodated, [that] would be helpful. We want to avoid as much travel as possible on the roads," he said.

In their warning, Environment Canada says that “travelling will become difficult if not impossible as the day wears on, with heavy, accumulating snow, strong winds and temperatures near zero resulting in treacherous conditions.” 

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The city's primary concern is to ensure firefighters, paramedics and police vehicles can travel with ease.

The warning also goes on to say that “road closures are possible. Take extra care when walking or driving in affected areas. If visibility is reduced while driving, slow down, watch for tail lights ahead and be prepared to stop.”

It has been cutting across the province from the southwest corner into the Red River Valley and northwest toward Berens River.

Should you drive 75 today? NO! Slow down, the roads are ice and slush covered in the Fargo area. They get worse the further west you drive. These pics are between MM 340 and 317 on I-94. #NDHP #VisionZeroND via ^Cpt. Niewind – SE Region Commander pic.twitter.com/u5kMlrtcZ1

CBC meteorologist John Sauder expects it to drop as much as 50 centimetres of snow to the west of Winnipeg before it shifts out of the province by Saturday.

Winnipeg received about 10-15 centimetres Thursday, and Sauder expected about the same on Friday. And that should be it, as far as this storm goes. He doesn't anticipate much more than a few flakes on Saturday.

Dangerous night in Winnipeg where heavy, wet snow continues come down. It took out this big branch on Edmonton St. and landed on a car. No injuries reported. WFPS looking to find owner of vehicle to break the news… #MBStorm #WPG pic.twitter.com/ki4ZelufF2

Rain, wind and snow to hamper Thanksgiving weekend travel

Graham Harrison spent part of Friday morning trying to remove a tree that fell on his house on North Drive in Fort Garry around 9 p.m. CT the night before.

Manitoba Public Insurance spokesperson Brian Smiley told Global News the insurer had around 600 claims filed by the end of the business day Thursday, and another 200 opened by around 11 a.m. Friday. Weather was definitely a factor in collision counts, he said.

"It was just a thump, but it was loud enough you knew something had happened," Harrison said. "Now, I'm just trying to clear snow off the tree to get the weight off 'cause there's more snow coming.

"All the trees are hardy, but you cannot load them [with snow] like this and expect them to last. But now I've got firewood."

The storm has also brought strong northerly winds, which are expected to increase significantly on Friday. Gusts could reach 70 to 80 km/h, Sauder said.

"Our issue right now is with the wind picking up and additional precipitation expected, and perhaps colder temperatures," Owen said, asking people to be patient as crews try to get to everything.

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"We fully expect, with the weather to persist and even get worse, the number of outages will increase. As we restore one neighbourhood, two more neighbourhoods go down.

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email: [email protected]

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