Winter goes out without whimper

The Stettler region was pummelled by the wild spring weather that smacked much of Alberta last week

Sheldon Jackson uses a snowblower to clear his Stettler driveway last Friday

Sheldon Jackson uses a snowblower to clear his Stettler driveway last Friday

The Stettler region was pummelled by the wild spring weather that smacked much of Alberta last week — as snow and blowing snow wreaked havoc on the area.

Highways were hit hard, making driving conditions tricky, and many country roads were left impassable.

Many of Clearview’s rural school buses did not operate last Thursday and by Friday all bus routes, except those in the town of Stettler, were cancelled because of the blocked roads, said Clearview superintendent John Bailey.

The weather chaos gave many rural students an early start on their spring break.

County of Stettler chief administration officer Tim Fox said the county office received 25 to 30 complaints of blocked roads within a 24-hour period.

He said the calls pertaining to medical concerns were given priority.

The weather conditions were so bad last Thursday that the county had to pull in most of their snowplows, Fox said.

He said that on Friday, all 13 of the county’s snowplows were out and would be running 14-hour shifts per day, right through the weekend, to get the roads open.

He said he’s “extremely concerned” what might happen to the roads if there’s a quick thaw.

Fortunately, the Stettler area did not see anything as colossal as the massive pile-up south of Edmonton, on the QE2, involving about 100 vehicles and resulting in more than 100 people being injured in the mayhem.

Sgt. Duncan Babchuk of the Stettler RCMP detachment said police were not called out on any traffic-related incidents during the storm.

“I have noticed a huge change from the beginning of winter until now,” Babchuk said.

He said people now know how to react to poor road conditions and equipment-related incidents, like lack of snow tires, have been corrected.

“That’s good news, he said.

Babchuk said police did, however, field a number of calls from people inquiring about road conditions.

Similar reports came in from the Bashaw area.

Sgt. Cam Paul said the Bashaw RCMP detachment did not respond to any weather-related traffic accidents.

“The people in rural areas are pretty savvy when hit by weather like this,” Paul said.

It was a different story in the Coronation area.

The storm appeared to intensify as it moved eastward from Castor to the Saskatchewan border.

Const. Carl Almusa of the Coronation RCMP detachment said Alberta Transportation closed highways 12, 36, 872 and 599, east of Castor.

He said there were at least two rollovers, but there were no injuries reported.

Almusa said multiple people were stuck and stranded on the east-country highways.

“A couple of semis got stuck on the highway and were out there for the night,” Almusa said.

He said he was “out late” himself, dealing with the havoc caused by the spring storm.

“Local people knew to stay off, but it was the people travelling that got caught,” Almusa said.

In a Saturday interview, County of Paintearth Reeve George Glazier said county personnel are dealing with the aftermath of the storm.

He said the county has 11 Bobcats out, pushing the immense amount of snow that was heaped on county roads in the wake of the spring blizzard.

As of Saturday, Glazier estimated 40 per cent of the east-west roads in his area were still blocked and that a portion of Highway 599 was still closed.

Poor road conditions led to the postponement of the Coronation music festival grand finale concert and the Castor spring rummage sale.

The agriculture community, in the midst of calving season, was also impacted by the storm and by the late arrival of spring in general.

“It’s been a challenge,” said Dee Green, who along with her husband Dale runs a cow-calf operation near Byemoor.

She said the weather prompted them to check their herd at two-hour intervals around the clock — packing newborn calves into the barn.

“It could have been worse,” she added on a positive note. “It could have been colder.”