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Prince Albert residents digging out after Monday snowstorm

Prince Albert residents digging out after Monday snowstorm
The statue of John Diefenbaker sits next to a pile of snow in Memorial Square outside City Hall on Jan. 31, 2022.

Prince Albert residents were still recovering Tuesday afternoon after a blizzard rolled across much of south and central Saskatchewan on Monday.

Tow-truck operators like Danny Goodwin, the owner of Gateway North Towing, said his drivers were working until 2 a.m. Tuesday morning helping stranded motorist outside the City. Goodwin said Monday’s blizzard was one of the worst he’s ever seen.

“It would be in the top three for sure,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “I might have been through one in the last 15 years that was worse than this one. We were out in the country and we were getting stuck with our tow trucks in white out conditions just trying to help people out.”

Goodwin said some drivers were so stuck only the roof, rear window and side windows were visible on their vehicle. Although Gateway operates 24-hours a day, Goodwin said they eventually stopped sending drivers outside the City due to safety concerns.

Once visibility gets that bad, Goodwin said it becomes dangerous to exit the truck and help drivers on the side of the road, especially with overly aggressive drivers on the road.

“Just slow down,” Goodwin said. “Take 45 seconds out of your life, and then speed back up when you get past the tow-truck drivers. It’s that simple. It’s the simplest message ever, and it’s unbelievable how many people just don’t follow it.”

Gateway North answered 169 calls for service on Jan. 31. Goodwin said it wasn’t quite as busy on Tuesday since most residents realized how bad the conditions were and stayed home.

Conditions were still difficult for drivers who had no choice but to be on the road. Parkland Ambulance Care Ltd. spokesperson Lyle Karasiuk said large amounts of snow are always difficult on ambulance drivers, especially when they’re trying to get to farms and villages outside the City.

One crew was stuck in Saskatoon after transferring a patient to hospital, but otherwise Karasiuk said they’ve been able to manage.

“It’s always challenging for us in the winter time,” he said. “When we’re trying to get somewhere, roads may be plugged. If it’s a family on the farm and we’ve got out to clear the driveway it becomes a challenge for us, but thankfully we’re really blessed. Any time we end up somewhere where maybe we get stuck, there are always some bystanders (ready to help).”

Karasiuk advised drivers to stay home while crews cleared the highways, and only travel for emergencies. He advised drivers to have an emergency kits with granola bars, water, candles, matches and blankets. He also recommended drivers bring a scarf or some other easily identifiable object to hang outside a window and draw attention to the vehicles.

Above all, Karasiuk said stranded drivers should stay with their vehicle until help arrives.

“We can’t overemphasize this,” he said. “You need to stay with your vehicle. Stay warm and stay safe, versus venturing out, especially into unknown territory.”

The City of Prince Albert issued a parking ban on all priority one streets to help speed up snow removal from high traffic routes. The City had 20 pieces of equipment out on the street Monday morning in anticipation of heavy snowfall throughout the day.

The list of equipment includes six grades (three city-owned and three contractor), eight tandem axel trucks (five city-owned, three contractor) and three chase loaders.

Crews were back at in around 5 a.m. on Tuesday with 22 pieces of equipment on the streets. That included one loader specifically assigned to clear lanes for sanitation trucks that kept getting stuck.

Due to heavy snowfall levels, crews were still working on priority one streets as of 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.