The winter storm that blew through the region brought in a sudden influx of snow, high winds and terrible driving conditions that played havoc with people’s commutes Oct. 2.
“There was a winter storm that came on suddenly and included high wind gusts…plus snow,” said the City of Chestermere’s Director of Emergency Management Donelda Laing.
The combination of factors, particularly the wind, greatly increased the severity of the snow storm.
Conditions deteriorated on the highways to the point that the Trans Canada was closed from Calgary east to Bassano by the province just before noon.
After being notified of the closure, Laing said that city roads crews, Chestermere Fire Services and RCMP all worked to direct traffic off the highway into Chestermere.
“We were directing traffic into the city and off the highway because of the closure,” she said.
As vehicles were diverted, Laing said the roads in the city were still in good winter driving condition.
“The roads were still fairly clear,” she said.
“We had our roads crew out doing an assessment of the roads and…because the highway was closed we asked them to plow priority routes…knowing that people would be trying to get in and out of town,” said Laing.
Because of the numbers of staff from different departments involved in the city’s response Laing made the decision to open the Emergency Operations Centre to better coordinate the response.
“The other thing we wanted to do as a precautionary measure was to prepare in case people coming off the highway needed any shelter,” she said.
Emergency social services staff were notified and started planning for the possibility of sheltering motorists in Chestermere.
Fortunately, while the storm caused chaos on the roads by lasting only one-day shelters weren’t needed for this storm.
With warmer weather returning the very next day, the city was able to close the Emergency Operations Centre and conduct a review of the response.
“By and large we felt the response was appropriate, was absolutely spot on in terms of coordinating efforts,” said Laing.
“It was a really positive experience for everybody involved in the response,” she said.
Alongside the city’s response, residents did a good job of looking after themselves and their neighbours through the storm.
Laing said that went and emergency event like this occurs residents need to listen to emergency alerts and follow the directions of emergency personnel.
“Our role is ensuring people’s safety over all,” she said.