Saskatoon slammed by 20 to 30 centimetres of snow during weekend storm
SASKATOON -- The city and surrounding area was hit hard by an unforgiving fall snowstorm over the weekend, leading to treacherous travel conditions and stranded motorists.
After Saturday's initial blast of winter weather, streets and sidewalks were left coated in snow and ice Sunday morning.
As predicted by Environment Canada, more heavy, blowing snow continued through the afternoon and into the evening.
"It should begin to taper off in the overnight period, however, the winds are going to stay up for all of the afternoon and evening," said Terri Lang with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Lang said the city saw about 10 to 15 centimetres of snow from Saturday night to Sunday morning and she expects the city to see about another 20 to 30 cm between Sunday afternoon and into Monday morning.
As the storm system showed no sign of letting up Sunday night, Saskatoon Public Schools and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools issued a joint press release, cancelling high school classes for Monday.
The University of Saskatchewan also called off all in-person classes, labs, and clinics for Monday. Saskatchewan Polytechnic also cancelled in-person classes at its Saskatoon campus.
Also on Sunday evening, the city said it is prepared to help people who get stuck in the snow while driving.
In a news release, the city said the Saskatoon Fire Department is advising people who get stranded to not panic, stay with their vehicle and call 306-975-8300 or 911 if it is an emergency.
The city has been discouraging non-essential travel since the onset of the storm and suggested those who do need to get around the city should consider taking Saskatoon Transit.
“Today, it’s more about staying put. We want residents to stay inside and stay safe,” Pamela Goulden-McLeod, the head of emergency planning for the city, said on Sunday.
However, the city's bus system eventually succumbed to the storm, with Saskatoon Transit shutting down service at 9 p.m. Sunday night.
Around 10 p.m., Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) tweeted that the stretch of College Drive from Preston Avenue to McDormand Drive was "impassable with multiple stranded vehicles."
In the tweet SPS also echoed the city's plea for residents to stay home if possible.
Outside the city limits, the storm led to the shutdown of Highway 16 to westbound traffic near Langham.
The highway was eventually reopened but RCMP said the Borden Bridge Valley, located further west, was impassable for semi-trucks and other heavy vehicles.
“All day, semis have been getting off the road and getting stuck in ditches in that area. Several of them are still waiting for help. Any other semi or heavy vehicle driver who tries to pass the valley will probably have to spend the night in the valley waiting for help,” RCMP said.
“Please stay where you are, spend the night in any town south of the bridge and reassess tomorrow morning."
Kindersley RCMP also advised against travel, saying 60 to 90 centimetres of snow had accumulated on roads in the community and the surrounding area.
A layer of ice beneath the snow and poor visibility added to the danger for drivers, the detachment said.
Civic election to continue
In Saskatoon, the city's efforts to mobilize in the face of an extreme weather event took on added urgency with voters scheduled to head to the polls Monday for the 2020 civic election.
“There’s no snow day for the election,” city manager Jeff Jorgenson said on Sunday.
“The election must go on.”
Polling stations are still scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday.
The city is asking voters to allow extra time to get to their polling station. If polling stations are affected by snowfall and become inaccessible, crews will respond appropriately, the city said.
The city also said due to the weather-related closure of Saskatoon's leisure centres — also drop-off points for mail-in ballots — election day polling stations will now also accept mail-in ballots on Monday.
In the effort to beat back the piling snow, the city dispatched 27 graders, 18 sanders, eight high-speed plows and five sidewalk plows, with crews focusing primarlily on Circle Drive and high-traffic roadways.
As the city braced for the battering storm system's second act, one bright spot came during an afternoon Zoom call held by the city when police said there had only three minor collisions reported as of 12 p.m. Sunday.
Also, residents in the city's Meadowgreen neighbourhood took to an icy street for an impromptu skating session and many people shared photos on social media of the massive snowdrifts they now found themselves confronted with outside their homes.