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Flash freeze warning issued for parts of N. Alta., highway travel not recommended
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Friday, January 18, 2013 10:57AM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 18, 2013 6:26PM MST
Police in north-central Alberta are advising drivers stay off the road – as conditions are already poor, and are expected to get worse overnight.
Lac La Biche RCMP said late Friday afternoon that conditions on highways in and around Lac La Biche County have already deteriorated to the point that travel is not recommended.
According to police, high winds and light snow have reduced visibility, and roads are reportedly very icy.
In addition, a cold night is in the weather forecast, and police said there’s little chance conditions could improve overnight, as Environment Canada has issued a flash freeze warning in that county, and a number of other jurisdictions in northeastern Alberta.
“Highway conditions will be brutal tonight and Saturday morning,” CTV Edmonton meteorologist Josh Classen said. “If you can avoid being on highways in that area until Saturday afternoon, that’s probably the best plan of action.
“Once the cold settles in, road crews will be able to tackle the icy conditions.”
The warning comes while the province continues the closure of a section of Highway 63, due to unsafe driving conditions.
The Minister of Transportation gave police permission to close Highway 63, between the Highway 55 junction, and Secondary Highway 881 Thursday evening – by Friday morning; officials had decided to keep the highway closed until further notice.
The closure has left long lineups of trucks and vehicles on both sides of the closure.
“The unfortunate thing is, it does affect a lot of people, but it is not recommended to travel,” Wood Buffalo RCMP spokesperson Cst. Christina Wilkins said. “The roads are not safe to travel, even the roads that we have traffic rerouted onto are in very poor condition.”
Highway 55, between Highway 63 and 881 was also closed Thursday night by RCMP.
On Friday afternoon Highway 881 was temporarily shut down after RCMP were called to a crash between two transport trucks – where one ended up blocking traffic. Minor injuries were reported due to that crash, and RCMP said the highway was reopened about an hour later.
However, officials said the highways are still treacherous, with glare ice, due to freezing rain – coupled with weather conditions in the area such as fog, wind, freezing temperatures and falling snow contributed to the deteriorating condition of the roadway as well.
“All of a sudden, you’re going from an asphalt roadway to a curling rink,” Parker Hogan with Alberta Transportation said.
Hogan told CTV News drastic fluctuations in temperature made it difficult to adjust the sand and salt mixture on the roads – but the weather is making it difficult to ensure the roads are passable.
“They’re doing everything they can against what is a very interesting weather system in that area, to make the highway the best shape possible, so that people can safely drive along the highway,” Hogan said.
Alberta Transportation said officials are working closely with the contractor and local police to work out when the road will be safe to reopen.
With files from Veronica Jubinville and Susan Amerongen