Travel warning issued as Calgary and southern Alberta brace for heavy snow

Travel warning issued as Calgary and southern Alberta brace for heavy snow

March 19 was officially the start of spring, but winter’s not done with southern Alberta.

A cold front swept south on Tuesday, bringing an evening dump of heavy snow in parts of western and southern Alberta. 

Environment Canada has snowfall warnings in place for a large swath of the province, including Calgary.

“10 to 30 cm of snow is expected by Friday morning across southern Alberta. Most regions will receive 10 to 15 cm of snow but a few locations could see as much as 30 cm,” the agency said.

Calgary Transit said it would be activating snow detours on some routes beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

“These snow detours will be active to help us reduce the number of buses that get stuck and keep transit moving as smoothly as possible,” it said.

The cold spell is expected to last through the weekend and into next week. 

The forecast prompted the Southern Alberta RCMP to warn of the potential for a spring storm, “which may come with treacherous road conditions in the upcoming 48 hours.”

Two people shovel snow.
In this photo from January, workers shovel fresh snow in cold temperatures in Calgary. Forecasts say people should expect more of the same as spring arrives. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Traditionally, the region between Airdrie and Innisfail on Highway 2 has been an area of “great concern,” the Mounties said.

“If you do not have to travel, please stay home,” the police agency said in a news release.

“If you must travel, RCMP want to advise motorists to use extreme caution, slow down and maintain an increased distance between yourself and other drivers.”

The City of Calgary echoed the Mounties’ request for motorists to limit travel if possible, telling Calgarians they are preparing for “a significant snow event.”

It said people should be prepared for as much as 25 cm of snow to fall by Thursday evening, with up to 40 cm possible by Friday.

“If you’re able to limit travel, this would be our recommendation. But if you have to travel, ensure you are prepared before you head out, expect delays and take your time to get to where you need to go safely,” the city said in a statement.

Snowfall needed with ongoing drought

After several days of spring-like conditions, Calgary can expect a high of just 5 C on Tuesday, with snow starting to fall around midnight. 

Wednesday’s forecast calls for 5 cm of snow with temperatures steady near –5 C. 

Speaking on the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday, weather expert and freelance video journalist Kyle Brittain said with Alberta’s current drought conditions, spring snowfalls are exactly what’s needed.

“We need every single flake and we need probably three or four more of these spring snowstorms to really start making a difference,” he said.

“You know, the snow is slow-release water. It’s our summer insurance. We need it.”

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