Snowfall amounts downgraded as Manitoba storm expected to weaken, but ‘we’re not out of it yet’

Warnings are still in place but it looks as though southern Manitoba may have seen the worst of its spring snowstorm.

Snow and blowing snow are expected to continue across the entire southern half of the province Thursday, but the low-pressure system responsible for the drastic return of winter is beginning to weaken, Environment Canada says.

Snowfall totals of five to 10 centimetres — rather than the 10-15 cm originally forecast — are likely throughout the Red River Valley, including Winnipeg, and southeastern Manitoba on Thursday.

“[We] may be seeing the slow decay of this storm,” said Dan Fulton, senior meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The Winnipeg region received a total of 25 cm on Wednesday as the storm first arrived. Fulton thinks a few parts of western Manitoba had more than that, but official amounts are still pending.

The west should have a much easier day, with only two to five centimetres for Thursday, the Environment Canada forecast said. Dauphin and the Interlake region are expected to get another five to 10 cm.

Some unofficial snowfall amounts from Wednesday were released Thursday:

  • Brandon: 12 cm.
  • Virden: 15 cm.
  • Gimli: 20-25 cm.
  • Morden: 30+ cm.
  • St. Clements: 31 cm.
  • Riding Mountain area: 30-40 cm.

Fulton expects by the end of the storm, the snowfall total will be 30-35 cm across southern Manitoba.

More shovelling will be needed Thursday in southern Manitoba, but not as much as Wednesday, as snowfall amounts are expected to be significantly lower. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Forecasts had suggested a range of 30-50 centimetres but closer to 80 cm along the higher elevations of Riding Mountain and Turtle Mountain.

“The storm did pretty much what we thought it would — maybe not as much snow. I always thought the 80 cm was a little bit overblown but I guess we’ll see when the amounts come in,” CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder said.

“It wasn’t the ’97 storm, it wasn’t the 48 cm we had 25 years ago, but still, it is a significant snowfall. And we’re not out of it yet, we still need to be careful.”

People in larger cities, sheltered by larger buildings, may not have realized how much worse the conditions were beyond urban borders, he said.

A person walks across a street in downtown Winnipeg on Thursday morning. Winds are still going to be strong Thursday, making for blustery conditions across the southern half of the province. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Deb Bauche, who lives just north of the International Peace Garden on the Canada-U.S. border southwest of Winnipeg, near Turtle Mountain Provincial Park, is a witness to that.

“We’ve got a five-foot snowdrift on the south part of our deck that’s almost in touch with the one coming off the roof,” she said.

“This morning when I got up there, it wasn’t snowing at all, but it was quite windy. And we just looked out again and now it’s snowing really hard and visibility’s down. Like John had said, it’s coming in bands. That’s what it was like yesterday all day and part into the night.

“It’s the strangest storm.”

The few blizzard warnings that had been in place in western Manitoba for much of the week have been dropped by Environment Canada and replaced with the winter storm warnings that cover pretty much everywhere else in the south.

Wind gusts continue to be strong at times — to almost 60 km/h in the Brandon area and about 50 in Winnipeg and the surrounding area — whipping up the fresh snowfall, Sauder said.

As a result, travel on highways may be difficult or impossible, particularly Thursday morning, Environment Canada says.

More than two dozen highways or sections of highways are closed due to poor driving conditions. Information about ever-changing road conditions can be found on the province’s website.

“We’re still going to see the strong winds staying with us. They are starting to shift a little bit more to the northwest this afternoon, so I’m expecting them to be 30 km/h gusting to 50 km/h,” Sauder said.

The wind will gradually drop off as the snow lets up into Friday, he said.

“I think Friday is a day when we’re going to see better visibilities and we’re going to start to see some of these highways opening up.”

Flight schedules up in air

Tyler MacAfee, vice-president of the Winnipeg Airports Authority, said most flights are still cancelled Thursday morning.

“A lot of that is because the planes yesterday didn’t come in. Airlines pre-emptively cancelled pretty much everything yesterday, so we’re seeing cancellations up to around noon this morning,” he said. 

Beyond that, however, is still a guess at the moment.

“It’s really tough to say. As everybody knows, Mother Nature kind of has its own plan,”  MacAfee said. “If you’re planning to travel today, make sure you keep a close eye on your flights.”

Information on arrivals and departures is available on the WAA website, but “really the best thing people can do is talk to their airline,” MacAfee said.

“Each airline will kind of handle the passengers differently based on their flight schedule and availability,” he said.

If your flight is still planned to go out, give yourself lots of time to get to the airport, MacAfee said.

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