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.
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.
"And they are coming down on our [power] lines," said Owen, urging the public to be careful.
Once-in-a-century floods could become annual events by 2050
"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.
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.
Everything you need to know for Friday, October 11
"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."
Parts of Manitoba hit with upwards of 20 cm of snow, intense wind gusts : ECCC
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.
"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."
Talking turkey: Whats open and closed on Thanksgiving day in Winnipeg
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.
“Historic Storm” Continues To Hammer Southern Manitoba
Anyone coming across a downed line needs to call 911 because it's a public safety matter, Owen said.
"Emergency officials will get in contact with us, and we will come and de-energize it as quickly as possible."
Winter Storm Warning Issued
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.
Intense Winter Storm Only Just Getting Started, Much More Snow To Come Friday
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.
Storm causes morning traffic and transit headaches across southern Manitoba
"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.
The cleanup begins: Power slowly being restored, Manitobans begin to dig out after record-breaking snowstorm
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.
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.
"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.
Manitoba Storm Is Causing Power Outages & Chaos
"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]
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.