Valerie Fraser and her husband Steve were on their way to Calgary to see the Pearl Jam concert last night when they got stuck on the highway. Submitted by Valerie Fraser
Calgarians continue to deal with dangerous commutes as the blizzard that set in yesterday continues to hammer the city and region.
Despite overnight work from road crews,travel around the city is still challenging, say city officials.
The blizzard warning for the city has been lifted, but snow is still falling and the city could see at least another two centimetres, according to Environment Canada. All blizzard warnings for southern Alberta were lifted at 12:30 p.m. MT, including a notice for Lethbridge.
Most Calgary schools are open, but there is no school bus service, forcing parents to find alternate transportation in an already challenging commuting environment.
Travel in and out of the city has also been crippled, with at least 50 WestJet and Air Canada flights cancelled Tuesday at Calgary International Airport.
Roads in Calgary residential areas in particular are troublesome, as many have not seen a plow come through since the storm hit Monday, said Jessica Bell of Calgary`s transportation department.
For those who need to travel, Calgary police suggest using major thoroughfares only.
"We`re focused on those Priority 1s according to our seven-day snow plan. We work on those until the snow has stopped," said Bell, referring to main roads versus neighbourhood roads.
"We`ll get to the Priority 2s after those have been cleared up, about 24 hours after the snow stops."
The city issued a snow route parking ban advisory Tuesday. The parking ban will begin at 9 a.m. MT Wednesday.
Under the policy, parking is restricted on designated routes for 72 hours, or until the city announces the ban has been lifted. Snow routes include major roadways, collector roads and most bus routes, and are marked by blue signs with a white snowflake icon.
Calgarians can check the city`s website to find out if their street has been designated a snow route.
Over 200 crashes reported
Calgary police said, as of noon Tuesday, that since the storm started, they had responded to 219 crashes, 25 that involved injuries.
"Our units were responding all night to people that were stranded, as well as helping them out when they ended up having accidents,” said Duty Insp. Guy Baker.
Police are recommending people stay off the roads.
Calgary Transit is warning about detours and recommend commuters check their website before heading out Tuesday morning. They also alerted commuters that all service was running behind.
Student Emma Bulloch curled up on a transit bench for at least 25 minutes Tuesday, checking the time on her phone.
"It's so cold, I wish I could have dressed up better but I don't have anything warmer," said Bulloch.
"I'm just very, very cold and angry and I just want to get to school."
Buses are struggling to navigate the snowy streets and some are even getting stuck, said transit spokesperson Theresa Schroder.
"We're definitely working hard right now to get out there," she said.
"We have employees from our office staff, training officers, maintenance, all kinds of staff out there digging buses out."
C-Trains are running at a reduced speedas crews work to clear the tracks.
“They are maintaining them, as much as possible, just ice and all that. We do have a slow order in effect, which means the trains have to go slower than normal, just due to the blizzard to make sure they remain safe.”
Highway drivers stranded overnight
The Trans-Canada Highway, east of the city to Strathmore, which is about a 40-minute drive east of Calgary, reopened as of 11:30 a.m. MT. From Strathmore to Gleichen, Alta., it remains closed.
It had been shut down between Calgary to Brooks from late afternoon Monday. Overnight volunteer firefighters from Strathmore rescued stranded motorists caught in the whiteout conditions.
Valerie Fraser and her husband were on their way to see Pearl Jam in Calgary on Monday night when they got stuck on the highway.
The pair, who live in Medicine Hat, Alta., spent a sleepless night inside their car, said Fraser.
"It was a little nerve-racking because you don't know what's going on, are you going to move. You want to make sure you're awake. You don't want to miss the call to move forward. So hopefully we'll make it into Strathmore and be able to sleep a few hours before we maybe venture out back to Medicine Hat."
They came to a stop at 5 p.m. MT Monday and were only able to move again at 11:30 a.m. MT. Fraser says they passed the time by listening to Pearl Jam and talking with family and friends.
In central Alberta, Red Deer opened an Emergency Operations Centre. It was activated to co-ordinate a response to the storm. Crews worked through the night to clear roads deemed inaccessible to emergency vehicles.