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Updated: Mon, 02 Dec 2013 22:39:31 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Blizzard slams southern Alberta



Police, fire and ambulance are all on scene at an accident which involved six vehicles at Stoney Trail and Deerfoot Trail. Devin Heroux/CBC

Police, fire and ambulance are all on scene at an accident which involved six vehicles at Stoney Trail and Deerfoot Trail. Devin Heroux/CBC

Much of central and southern Alberta is under a blizzard warning as an Arctic air mass settling over the province brought strong winds and heavy snow.

The Calgary area could see 15 to 30 centimetres of snow on Monday, according to Environment Canada.

- Are you out in this weather? Send your blizzard images to calgaryphotos@cbc.ca or tweet us at @CBCCalgary.

RCMP say 23 vehicles — including four semis — were involved in a multi-vehicle crash north of Calgary. Highway 2 southbound has been closed between Didsbury and Carstairs near the overpass.

Highway 1 has also been closed from Calgary to Brooks, Alta., as Strathmore RCMP deal with another multi-vehicle collision.

RCMP said the highway may not open until the morning. Officials are advising against highway travel until the storm passes.

"At this time motorists are asked to find shelter in a safe location or in their vehicle," said RCMP in a release. "Be prepared to spend the night."

Emergency crews may not be able to reach all stranded motorists on the highway because of the severe weather, police said.

Linda Nelson, the deputy director of emergency management in Strathmore, said rural firefighters are out on highways rescuing stranded travellers. They plan to convoy back to the town located west of Calgary and set up rescued travellers at the local civic centre.

Dangerous roads

Blowing snow is reducing visibility on roads in Calgary and on highways outside the city.  

Volker Stevin Contracting, which operates snowplows and sanders, said Monday afternoon that it had pulled half of its crews off highways near the Alberta communities of Gleichen, Hussar and Bassano. 

“It's a total whiteout out there. They can't see the roads so they become a hazard to the public and a hazard to themselves," said Volker Stevin's Jack Brown.  

"For their safety, we're pulling them out of there."

100 flights cancelled 

As of 8 p.m. MT, more than 100 flights in and out of the city have been cancelled at Calgary International Airport.

Some of the cancellations were announced Sunday in anticipation of the blizzard.

Airlines are working to accommodate passengers because of the disruptions. WestJet has eased its restrictions today for people changing flights in and out of Calgary, Edmonton and Grand Prairie, Alta. 

Theresa Senekal, who is trying to fly home to Grande Prairie, is among those held up by the storm.

"We have a full work schedule booked for tomorrow so we have to be back in Grande Prairie, but I guess that's one of the pleasures of living in northern Alberta," she said.

Dawn Flanagan had just arrived from Cuba when she encountered the whiteout conditions.

She was waiting to take the bus to Red Deer after her ride home fell through.

"They texted me at 4:30 in the morning and I got it when I arrived saying, 'There's no way I'm coming,'" said Flanagan.

Avoid driving, if possible 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi tweeted Monday that if Calgarians had to be on the roads, they should allow extra time.

"I have to go into work today — darn #yyccc meeting — but if you are able to work from home, please do," he tweeted, referring to a city council meeting. 

He later told CBC News that city buses are having some trouble and that C-Trains are full. 

But the mayor said it's too early to say when a snow route parking ban will be declared.

"Right now the crews are working hard on the Priority 1 roads that are unaffected by a snow ban because there's no parking on them anyway," Nenshi said.

"Once we have a chance to clear [those], and the snow has stopped, we'll make a decision on whether or not we need to call a parking route ban for the Priority 2 roads. Given the amount of snow that I saw out there when I came in this morning, I think that it's probably a good bet that we'll need to do that, but not right away."

Meanwhile, Calgary police said they responded to more than 100 collisions between midnight and 3 p.m. Eight of them involved injuries while 102 caused property damage.

All of central, southern Alberta affected 

The blizzard warning covers all of central and southern Alberta’s major communities, including Red Deer, Brooks, Airdrie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Drumheller.

“The worst conditions are expected near and along a line from Red Deer through Strathmore and south towards Lethbridge, with northerly winds becoming as strong as 50 gusting to 80 km/h and visibilities near zero at times,” Environment Canada said. 

Highway 3 at Crowsnest Pass at the B.C.-Alberta boundary was closed at 9 a.m. MT Monday because of poor driving conditions, officials said. 

The community's volunteer fire department said Monday afternoon it was reopened, but officials are still advising against travel.

Many schools in Calgary and around the province have cancelled classes for the day.

Calgary's ski hill Canada Olympic Park, which is located in the city limits, is also closed because of high winds and wind chills. The hill will remain closed through Tuesday.

The intense winter storm has been moving down from northwestern Alberta since Saturday. The City of Red Deer activated its Emergency Operations Centre Monday afternoon because of the snowfall.

Flurries are expected to continue into Tuesday, according to Environment Canada. 

Driving on Airport Trail 

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