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The cleanup begins: Power slowly being restored, Manitobans begin to dig out after record-breaking snowstorm

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It was a record-breaker.

A total of 150,000 Manitoba homes and businesses lost power at some point Friday as a Colorado low slammed into the province – the most ever to lose power in Manitoba in one day, said Manitoba Hydro’s Bruce Owen.

“This is unprecedented, what we’re dealing with, so early,” said Owen. “We haven’t seen that before. Just because of the sheer number of outages, it will take us a while so we can get everybody up.”

The Manitoba Hydro outages map on Saturday as of 7:15 a.m.
 The Manitoba Hydro outages map on Saturday as of 7:15 a.m. Google Maps

“We have made progress, at least in Winnipeg,” he said. “At the height of yesterday, we had approximately 27,000 people without power, we’ve now got about 7,500 people without power (inside Winnipeg).”

However, other areas west of Winnipeg weren’t as lucky, thanks to near-blizzard conditions. “We couldn’t get to the rural areas safely.”

Hydro is working with the province to get graders to plow roads into problem areas to be able to restore power, said Owen. Extra staff and contractors have been called in to help and they will “get going, full steam” at dawn.

READ MORE: 2 injured, 1 critically as winter weather continues to whack Manitoba

Downed trees and branches are still the main problem, he added, meaning crews have to safely clear the tree or branch before lines can be repaired.

The winter storm warning for the city of Winnipeg ended at about 5 a.m., but the warning remained in effect for south central and south western Manitoba.

Environment Canada called for a high of 1 C for Winnipeg, with a chance of flurries in the afternoon.

The reporting station at The Forks recorded 44.5 mm of precipitation over the entire storm.

West of Winnipeg, snow will continue, up to 15 cm to add to the 40-60 cm already accumulated, said weather expert Bruce Johnson.

There is some hope the snow will melt, he added.

“Maybe a week,” he said. “It’s going to be slow because of the white surface… If we get in a position where both the temperature and the dew point are above freezing, then the snow will melt faster.”

City of Winnipeg crews worked through the night to clear streets.

Several highways south and west of Winnipeg were still closed just before 9 a.m. Saturday, including 75 to the US border and Highway 1 to the Saskatchewan border.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Infrastructure said crews were out overnight, and said they were able to get a plow on Highway 2 at about 4 a.m. where several people were stranded in their vehicles.

Jason Shaw of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service said Saturday morning that the city is still requesting people not travel on the roads unless needed.

“Things are starting to stabilize – we’re not there yet, but starting to stabilize,” he said.

READ MORE: 2 injured, 1 critically as winter weather continues to whack Manitoba

He confirmed a person was taken to hospital in critical condition Friday due to a falling tree branch, but had no further information on their condition.

Firefighter union president Alex Forrest said they set their own records, responding to a large number of calls. At one point, he said, they were responding to a new emergency call every single minute.

“This kind of snow, we call basically heart attack snow,” said Forrest, adding there were numerous fires overnight related to downed lines.

The Red River was at 12.03 James Avenue datum at 7:15 a.m., up slightly from Friday. The Red River Floodway was opened Wednesday evening.

The current river levels.
 The current river levels. City of Winnipeg

Several events were cancelled, including Saturday’s Tegan and Sara concert at the Garrick Centre. Because the duo is unable to reschedule, tickets will be refunded, said Ticketmaster.

Saturday’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers game at Investors Group Field is still on. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. CJOB’s Bob Irving said crews were plowing the field overnight.

The Farmer’s Market in St. Norbert was on, but was moved inside.

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