Ol’ Man Winter arrived with a vengeance here yesterday, bringing with it about 13 cm of snow and wind gusts exceeding 60 km/h.
The wet heavy snow snapped trees and power lines across the district, and forced most highways to close for at least a few hours due to slippery conditions.
Highway 11 was closed between here and Shabaqua to the east (it re-opened at 5 a.m. today) but driving conditions weren’t much better in the west end of the district.
Fortunately, Fort Frances OPP Cst. Mark Boileau said only two minor personal injury accidents were reported as of 8:30 a.m. today in this area along with four property damage incidents.
“There were five vehicles in the ditch yesterday,” Cst. Boileau noted, adding most of those were west of town in the Crozier and Devlin areas.
“It took me two hours to get from Rainy River to Fort yesterday afternoon,” he remarked. “It was a pretty rough ride. You had to be taking it easy.”
It was a different story further north, where a collision involving four transport trucks blocked off the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 71 until midnight. Another transport truck shut down Highway 72 from Kenora to Sioux Lookout after leaking jet fuel on the road.
Highway 72 was still closed by press time this morning, as were Highway 502 to Dryden and Highway 622 between Atikokan and the Trans-Canada Highway.
The storm also threw a monkey wrench at district schools. John McLeod, acting director of the Rainy River District School Board, said almost all bus students were on their way home by 2 p.m. yesterday.
Susan Drew, transportation officer for the board, said conditions have improved somewhat since yesterday but only slightly. “Our town buses are running and isolated routes that were on the highway [this morning],” she noted.
But several buses were snowed in last night, Drew said, and though all the country schools are open, not many bus students made it in today.
“The majority is right down due to drifting and slipperiness,” she said. “Mostly for drifting.”
Jerry O’Leary, principal at the Sturgeon Creek, Nestor Falls, and Sturgeon Creek Alternative schools, said only Nestor Falls had students this morning.
“All our students are bused and no buses are running,” he said from Sturgeon Creek School in Barwick this morning. “Nestor Falls is running and in Stratton there are no students, no power.”
O’Leary also said driving conditions remained tricky this morning for the teachers getting to school.
“The main highways are very slippery and the back roads are not plowed yet,” he said. “But I’m sure they’ll get done sometime today.”