Well it finally happened to me. I thought just like the thousands of others travelling Hwy #1 on Oct 2, 2018 east of Canmore, that even if we get stopped due to an accident, it would take a few hours max to get it cleaned up and keep us moving. I mean we have all seen the Towing reality TV shows where the RCMP and Transport Canada say repeatedly that due to economic reasons, the hwy cannot remain closed for any length of time. As we know this is the main East – West corridor for materials movement in Canada. But in this case, due to many reasons, the road remained closed for the better part of 16 hours. Some of the many reasons were due to early Fall snowstorm with record amounts of snow, perfect temperature for freezing at -3C, volume of traffic and inexperienced drivers without proper tires. I am assuming that the Highways department was caught off guard as well and I am sure there are many other contributing factors to mention.
It was one of the strangest situations I have ever been involved with.
My personal highlights were:
• Watching people give up and attempt to turn around through the ditch even though most cars and SUV’s that made attempts failed and became stuck. Pickup trucks were mostly successful. Of course, this option was only available if you were in the median lane.
• People were trying to drive their cars on the shoulder that did not exist, and some tried to squeeze through the middle even though there was nowhere to go since the traffic was stopped for 10km forward and back. I witnessed multiple arguments and even a few people being threatened with a pipe.
• This was not unexpected as people were very upset with the lack of information. Of course if you listen to the RCMP interviews in response to this, their fallback is that travel was not recommended due to road conditions and we all should have just stayed home. That is a very convenient response and kind of falls into the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ scenario, as we hear this statement most of the winter season. If in fact it was that bad, and no one should be on the road, then why did it remain open? See next bullet point…
• The Alberta 511 website and phone line stated only to expect delays. At no point during this event did the website show the road as being closed. There were very few updates to the actual mobile app, but as reported in the news, if you subscribe to Twitter, there was a few Tweets sent out. I do not Tweet, so I did not see these updates.
• One family was building a snowman with their kids. Kudos to them for making the best to keep the kids entertained, I am sure they were scared.
• A lady came to my truck looking for food for her diabetic mother. I gave her the only thing I had which was a half a chocolate bar. I was still believing that we had to be moving soon since it had already been 3 hours.
• Another lady came to my truck looking for napkins. I did one better and gave her some toilet paper. She was very thankful.
• I had a pack of water bottles and gave away most of my supply.
• There was no information at all on the radio. I even started listening to the AM News station.
• I never saw a single plow. There were two tow trucks and one RCMP travelling the wrong direction on the other side of the highway since that side was also closed.
• I called the Canmore RCMP non- emergency line around 3am to try and get some information and I was told that crews were working on it and that the highway would eventually reopen. Well I was thankful for that since I thought it would be closed forever.
• The temperature was not too cold at night, so I was able to run the truck off and on to conserve fuel, but it could have been very different in colder temps.
• I had plenty of fuel since I filled up before hitting the highway. A good practice any time of year.
• I personally had lots of water, and warm clothes, but no food.
This was a good reminder that when we travel for work or to hockey games with our kids, we need to have an emergency kit packed in our vehicles. You never know how long you could be stranded. This time I was alone, but next time my family could have been with me as many others in this situation were. Being prepared for emergencies does not happen overnight. I have created this checklist to build your kit over time. This is a good way to be prepared without overwhelming your schedule or your budget.
o Candle in a deep can and matches
o Extra clothing and shoes/boots
o Seatbelt cutter/or knife
o First-aid kit
o Flashlight (battery-powered or crank)
o Food that will not spoil (such as energy bars)
o List of contact numbers
o Radio (battery-powered or crank)
o Small shovel, scraper and snowbrush
o Warning light or road flares and a whistle
o Toilet paper
o Windshield washer fluid
o Fire extinguisher
o Road maps
o Sand, salt or cat litter (non-clumping)
o Tow rope
o Extra batteries for flashlight and radio, Portable and compact battery charger/booster with USB for charging phone
My thoughts go out to those that were injured and to the families of the fatality on Hwy #2 in this October snowstorm.