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Prairie storm prompts Alberta RCMP to warn motorists to find accommodations

Mar 03, 2013 07:45 pm | The Canadian Press

FORT MACLEOD, Alta. - Mounties told highway drivers in parts of the Prairies on Sunday to pull into the nearest town and sit tight to avoid crashing, or getting stranded, in a snowstorm that was whalloping southern Alberta and Saskatchewan and was moving east to Manitoba.

Many highways south of Calgary were shut down on Sunday afternoon due to the poor driving conditions and police told people to find accommodations in the nearest towns they could.

"It's not good. There's drifting snow, limited visibility, icy roads and a lot of vehicles in the ditch," said Cpl. Cate Dickman at the RCMP detachment in Oyen, Alta., where officials declared a local state of emergency late in the afternoon.

Dickman said the community, which is about 250 kilometres northeast of Calgary, was looking at putting up travellers in the local Royal Canadian Legion overnight.

Police said officials in Fort MacLeod, south of Calgary, were also planning to accommodate stranded travellers in the town's arena or community centre. While Highway 2 to Calgary was reopened by the early evening, police said travel on all roads in the area was still very slippery with poor visibility.

In Saskatchewan, the RCMP said its operations centre in Regina had recorded 50 calls about crashes on Sunday afternoon throughout central and southern Saskatchewan, mostly due to poor weather and driving conditions.

By early Sunday evening, police had closed a section of Highway 1 west of Regina between Mortlach and Rush Lake. Travel was also discouraged on many other highways throughout the province.

"The majority of these highways are blocked and will be impassible due to motor vehicle collisions or the road," and RCMP news release stated.

Winter storm and blowing snow warnings remained in effect across the southern portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba on Sunday night and were forecast to continue through until Monday across all three provinces.

Police in southern Alberta said that anyone stranded in their vehicles in Alberta should call 911, but added vehicles that have been in accidents or become stuck in ditches wouldn't be towed because it wasn't safe.

Calgary International Airport remained open on Sunday although numerous flights were cancelled.