Spring snow buries Manitoba, leaves roads dicey and rural schools closed

Like the flip of a switch, Manitoba has gone from a warm, dry spring to the dead of winter.

A storm that arrived Monday has quilted much of the province’s central and southern regions in up to 25 centimetres of heavy, wet snow.

And it’s not done yet.

Environment Canada says another 5-10 centimetres can be expected for Tuesday, with the snowfall warning still covering a broad swath of the province’s midsection.

In addition, visibility is expected to be poor at times as north winds gust up to 60 km/h, whipping around the fresh snow.

Dropping temperatures — a high of –1 C in Winnipeg rather than the normal high of 10 C — have turned the snow into a slushy, icy mix on the roads.

The province is reporting many highways are covered or partly covered by snow.

That has prompted a number of school closures in rural Manitoba for Tuesday, including:

  • Prairie Rose School Division.
  • Red River Valley School Division.
  • Sunrise School Division.
  • Lord Selkirk School Division.
  • Evergreen School Division.
  • Mennonite Collegiate Institute (Gretna).
  • Border Land School Division.

This photo kind of says it all about how the sudden shift in weather fortunes caught Winnipeggers off guard. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Environment Canada blames a low pressure system stalled over northwestern Ontario for spreading the snow westward into Manitoba.

Winnipeg has received about 20 centimetres so far, with more than half of that coming overnight into Tuesday morning.

The city and areas closer to the international border were not initially included in Monday’s snowfall warning but that changed in the afternoon. Winnipeg and areas south and southeast of it were added as the system muscled its way into more regions.

Winnipeg should be on the lower end of the 5-10 centimetres more that is expected before the snow and wind diminish and move out by the end of the day, said Environment Canada meteorologist Jason Knight.

“The system’s already breaking up a bit. I think the heaviest of it is mostly behind us,” he said, noting the Parklands region is the one that will see the higher end of Tuesday’s amount.

While many are likely grumbling about the storm, some see a bright side.

“I think it’s beautiful. Less pests around, you know — no mosquitoes and stuff like that,” said Max Cook, who was grabbing a coffee in downtown Winnipeg Tuesday morning.

He also considers himself lucky because he hadn’t yet changed out his truck’s snow tires or put out his patio furniture yet.

It’s back to winter in parts of central and southern Manitoba. (John Einarson/CBC)

Knight also noted the benefits to a spring snowstorm. While it’s April showers that are supposed to bring the May flowers, snow works, too.

“We actually depend on these to be bringing in the moisture at this time of year. So a storm like this is kind of unusual in the moment but it’s a very common spring phenomenon,” he said.

“This system was a little unusual in that it just stalled over northwestern Ontario and we ended up with two days of snow.”

Melted down, the white stuff will amount to about 20-25 millimetres of water for the parched farmland, “which puts a good dent in the drought conditions,” said Knight.

“But I don’t think it comes close to replacing the missing moisture over the last six months or so.”

Those melting temperatures should return soon, with Environment Canada calling for a high of 4 C in Winnipeg on Thursday and Friday.