Thousands of trees have snapped under the weight of an early fall snow in southern Manitoba, bringing down electrical lines and causing widespread power outages. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba snowstorm shuts highways, closes schools, snaps trees

Thousands of homes and businesses in Manitoba were without power Friday as a severe snow storm blanketed southern parts of the province, knocking down trees, shutting down highways and forcing school closures.

The province’s electrical utility said crews were working feverishly to restore power to over 37,000 customers, including more than 26,000 in Winnipeg.

“This is a major weather event,” said in a statement Scott Powell, a spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro. “The heavy wet snow is weighing down trees and bringing them into contact with overhead wires, causing outages all over our system. We are also seeing equipment failures due to tree contact, and failures due to wet snow sticking to insulators. In other cases, we are seeing the storm break poles and damage the hardware that holds up our wires.”

Powell said the utility is bringing in staff from areas unaffected by the storm to assist local crews, but that slippery roads are making travel difficult.

The storm arrived so early this fall that most trees are still full of leaves, which are now accumulating snow and causing the branches to bear more weight than normal.

The deteriorating weather is also slowing restoration times. Powell added that outages are growing in number and size and this may continue over the next couple of days.

“As of this morning we are no longer able to provide estimated times for restoration (ETRs) on our outages due to the extremely high volume of calls we are receiving and the continuing deterioration of the weather and roads,” Powell said.

“We understand the difficulty this poses for our customers, and I want them to know our people are doing everything they can to get power back on to affected areas as safely and quickly as possible.”

Lane Gibson sent this photo to CBC of an oak tree that fell onto his home on Winnipeg’s Kingston Crescent. (Submitted by Lane Gibson)

The early snowfall was brought  by a low-pressure weather system that moved into Manitoba from the United States on Wednesday, moving across the province from the southwest corner into the Red River Valley and northwest toward Berens River.

CBC meteorologist John Sauder said he expects it to drop as much as 50 centimetres of snow to the west of Winnipeg before the system moves out of the province by Saturday.

Winnipeg received about 10-15 centimetres Thursday and Sauder expected about the same on Friday.

With files from CBC News

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