Some Manitobans still trapped at home by snow as many return to normal after spring storm

The calm after southern Manitoba’s spring snowstorm is settling in across parts of the province, but not everyone is back to normal quite yet.

In Onanole, a small community about 220 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near Riding Mountain National Park, some residents are still digging themselves out — and waiting for snowplows to clear the way so they can leave their homes.

That includes Sheldon Willy, who said the sudden return of winter surprised him, but only a bit.

“We’ve had a little bit of a taste of weird weather here before,” he said, referring to the 2019 Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm that knocked out power and brought much of the province to a standstill.

Dean Gunnarson, a professional escape artist who lives in the area, said even he would have a hard time finding his way out of the thick layer of snow that covered roads and buried his truck.

“It’ll be, I don’t know, a few days before that comes out,” he said, looking back at the heap of snow where his vehicle was once visible.

“It’s challenging, but this is what being Canadian is all about.”

Gunnarson’s truck is barely visible as it sits covered in snow. (Submitted by Dean Gunnarson)

Environment Canada says unofficial total snowfall amounts show a huge range across the province. Woodlands, just northwest of Winnipeg, only got an estimated 13 centimetres of snow, while the city of Winnipeg got somewhere between 25 and 35.

Onanole was hit by far the hardest, with an estimated 82 centimetres covering that part of the province.

But Willy said he’s not too worried, and expects to be out and about again in a day or two.

“Rural Manitoba is pretty good at digging themselves out of these snowstorms,” he said.

Sheldon Willy, seen here on Zoom on April 15 with wife Eugenia Willy, said he was only a bit surprised by the snow his home of Onanole, Man., was hit with this week. (Zoom)

Mail delivery still paused

They’re not the only ones who will take a few more days to get back to normal. 

Canada Post is still suspending deliveries in southern Manitoba until it’s safe, spokesperson Phil Legault said in an email Friday.

That means mail delivery isn’t expected to return until Tuesday after a service alert was issued Wednesday, with contingency planning happening now to make sure deliveries are current as soon as possible next week, Legault said.

Canada Post community mailboxes were pelted with ice and snow on the outskirts of Brandon, Man., this week. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

“We encourage customers to clear the snow and ice from their walkways, stairs and driveways, to ensure safe access to the front door for both their visitors, as well as their mail carriers, when service resumes,” he said, adding the pause in service includes Brandon and Winnipeg.

Winnipeg parking ban lifted

While Winnipeg got far less snow than many rural areas, people in the capital city were still frustrated to once again be shoveling so much snow.

Gayle and Douglas McClelland were hard at work clearing off their front sidewalk on Friday, hoping to make it passable by the time their relatives arrive for an Easter celebration on Saturday.

Gayle and Douglas McClelland were trying to clear their front sidewalk in Winnipeg on Friday ahead of an Easter celebration they are hosting with relatives on Saturday. (Gilbert Rowan/Radio-Canada)

“This snow, it’s ridiculous,” Gayle said, taking a brief pause as she leaned her arm on her blue shovel. “We were hoping for better than this.”

The city brought in a snow route parking ban at midnight on Thursday as plows went out to clear the roads. By Friday morning, that ban was lifted, the city said in an email alert.

More snow ‘barely missed’ Winnipeg: meteorologist

Early storm forecasts suggested a range of 30-50 centimetres of snow across Manitoba, but closer to 80 along the higher elevations of Riding Mountain and Turtle Mountain.

The few blizzard warnings that were initially in place in western Manitoba for much of the week were later dropped by Environment Canada and replaced with winter storm warnings. 

A few snowfall warnings remained later Thursday, but by Friday there were no longer any weather alerts in effect in the province.

Dave Carlsen, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said he thinks the weather agency’s alerts — which on Monday said the storm had the potential to be Manitoba’s “worst blizzard in decades” — were warranted based on the information they had at the time.

“All we knew was that there was going to be a massive snowfall over a pretty big area. And that’s about the best we could do at that time scale,” Carlsen said.

“Sometimes you’re not going to get it exactly right. But I think in this situation, we actually did a pretty darn good job, in terms of what our forecast was and even the communication of what the forecast was going to do.”

Southern Manitoba did end up seeing significant snowfall, with huge variations even among nearby communities. Compared to Winnipeg’s 25 to 35 centimetres, the city of Selkirk — about 35 kilometres northeast — got hit with about 45.

“Meteorologically, that is right next door,” he said. “It barely missed us.”

Those warnings also potentially kept more people off the roads and highways during the storm. Manitoba RCMP said they received minimal traffic-related calls during the storm.

That included an extremely low number of collision reports — none of which were serious — and a very low number of stranded motorists, Mountie spokesperson Cpl. Julie Courchaine said in an email Friday.