Take care: Extreme cold makes for slick Edmonton commute

Edmonton police are urging drivers to exercise caution as bone-chilling temperatures return to the region, wreaking havoc on local roads.

'Edmonton is not a level in Mario Kart,' Edmonton police say

You may need an extra few minutes to scrape Thursday morning in Edmonton as freezing temperatures return to Alberta. (Shutterstock/Olaf Naami)

There were so many smash-ups on Edmonton roads during a bone-chilling Thursday morning, Edmonton police compared the freezing commute to a video game race gone wrong.

Environment Canada issued an extreme cold warning for Edmonton and surrounding areas, and the freezing temperatures turned local roads into skating rinks.

Slippery conditions were to blame for numerous fender benders across the city, and police are encouraging drivers to exercise caution. 

Between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., police responded to five injury collisions and 70 property damage collisions.

By 3:30 p.m., a total of 191 collisions had been reported to police. That included 10 hit-and-run collisions, 11 injury collisions and 170 property damage collisions, police said.

"Edmonton is not a level in Mario Kart," EPS said in a post to their public Facebook page. "Our roads are not race tracks.

"There are no cute penguins. There is no winner. And if you slip off the road, a Koopa won't lift your vehicle and put you back on track within seconds.

"It's about safety, patience, and planning. Let's all stay safe and warm today."

Police posted a similar message to Twitter.

'Slow down, drive for the road conditions'

There were at least two major multi-vehicle collisions in the city early Thursday. Both calls came in around 7 a.m.

Emergency crews were called to a seven-vehicle crash on Whitemud Drive, just east of 111th Street, plus two separate collisions nearby.

Police were also called to a five-vehicle smash-up southbound on Groat Road, near 105th Avenue. A vehicle lost control on ice, spun around and collided head-on with other vehicles on the road, police said. Minor injuries were reported.

In addition to the multi-car crash, there were two other crashes on Groat Road, said Carolin Maran, a spokesperson for Edmonton police.

In total, a dozen vehicles were involved in collisions on Groat Road alone, she said.

Ice on the Quesnell Bridge resulted in a number of collisions starting around 7:30 a.m., said Maran.

Sanding operation underway

"We've been sanding overnight and will continue to work throughout the day," said Janet Tecklenborg, director of infrastructure operations with the City of Edmonton.

About 100 trucks will be out on Thursday, focusing primarily on main roads and intersections, in preparation for the afternoon traffic rush, she said.

The cold weather provides particular challenges, said Tecklenborg.

"The moisture can create an icy slick on the road." she said. Salt can be used to melt ice but only works to –12 C, and calcium chloride isn't used when temperatures go below –20 C, added Tecklenborg.

"What we are using right now is mostly sand, to be able to address issues and increase the friction on the road," she said.

When roads are bare, that doesn't always work. Tecklenborg reminded drivers they can't compare driving on bare roads in winter to driving on bare roads in summer.

"We need to drive cautiously," she said.

An Arctic air mass moving across the Prairies has put much of the province into a deep freeze.

An Arctic air mass moving across the Prairies has put much of the province into a deep freeze.

An extreme cold advisory covers an area stretching from Wood Buffalo in the north to Waterton National Park in the south.

The cold weather is expected to stick around for a few days, with the wind chill making it feel as cold as –40 until the weekend.

Due to the extreme cold temperatures on Thursday morning, Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools has cancelled all buses in the Legal area. All buses for the district in Morinville and St. Albert will be running.

Buses have been cancelled for children attending Elk Island Public Schools due to extremely cold temperatures. The schools will remain open with regular classes Thursday for students who can brave the cold weather.

Extreme cold warnings are issued when very cold temperatures or wind chill creates an elevated risk to health such as frostbite and hypothermia.

"Extreme cold puts everyone at risk," said Environment Canada.

Albertans braving the cold are advised to watch for cold related symptoms: shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and colour change in fingers and toes

"Cover up. Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill."

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