170 crashes pile up in Calgary as heavy snow blankets southern Alberta

Heavy snow has contributed to hundreds of crashes around Calgary and led to the issuing of travel advisories across southern Alberta.

Between 6 a.m. Saturday until 10 a.m. Sunday, police say winter weather factored into 171 non-injury collisions in Calgary.

Thirteen people were involved in injury-related collisions as a result of the crashes, police say.

However, police said, despite the large figures, collisions frequently occur the day after a large snowfall.

“It’s a typical [number of collisions] for a day after a larger snowfall and during snowfall, given my experience,” said Paul Teworte with Calgary police. 

The biggest crash occurred at Beddington Trail and Deerfoot Trail, where 16 vehicles were involved in a chain reaction crash.

Teworte said drivers should leave early and take their time to avoid being involved in a collision.

“[It’s] winter driving conditions — the snow is wet and slippery and defensive driving is really your best option,” he said.

Calgary was blanketed by snow Sunday morning, and more is on the way until Monday, according to Environment Canada. (Umesh Bala)

Travel advisories

Erin Davidson, manager of Alberta 511, said a travel advisory remained in place for southern Alberta on Sunday.

“If you don’t need to travel today, consider postponing your travel even by a couple of hours to make a real difference,” she said. “Keep your eye on the road conditions, keep your eye on the weather.”

A snowfall warning was in effect for Calgary as of Sunday at 9:30 a.m., and the city was expected to see continued snowfall and high winds throughout the day.

“With the wind and any falling snow, we’re definitely going to see some potential for reduced visibility in that blowing snow,” Davidson said. “Right now, we’re looking at primarily fair to good visibility across the province. Some areas in southern Alberta around Cardston and around Elkwater are reporting poor visibility. But it’s really going to affect your travel.”

If travel is required, Davidson recommended turning on head and tail lights, brushing vehicles off and increasing following distances.

Snowfall totals for Calgary are expected to reach 15 to 25 centimetres before easing up on Monday afternoon, according to Environment Canada.

Winter storm warnings were in effect for the areas of Okotoks, High River, Claresholm, Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, Waterton, Kananaskis and Canmore.

Certain areas of the province, including Waterton National Park, were walloped with snow over the weekend and could approach one metre of snow by Monday. (Leanna Van Zeumeren)

The extreme southwest corner of Alberta is seeing significant snowfall levels, and could even see a metre of snow by Monday.

Environment Canada recommended postponing non-essential travel in these areas, but said those who must travel should prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating conditions on roadways.

Flights, classes cancelled

A number of flights out of the Calgary International Airport were also cancelled Sunday. Airport representatives said more crew members were being brought in to keep runways and roadways safe.

“I can tell you that despite the snow, the majority of our flights are operating safely. In certain cases, our airline partners have adjusted their schedules,” said airport spokesperson Reid Fiest in an email to CBC Calgary.

Fiest said travellers should leave extra time to get to the airport and be patient as crews clear and de-ice aircraft.

Palliser Regional Schools, a public school division in southern Alberta serving more than 8,400 students, announced late Sunday that Monday would be a snow day for all of its schools located south of Calgary. 

Monday classes were also cancelled by the University of Lethbridge and Kainai Board of Education.

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