CALGARY — A major winter storm system swept through the Calgary area Saturday creating havoc on the roads, in the skies, and at the airport with reported wind-gusts of 90 kilometers per hour and up to 30 centimeters of snow, making visibility almost due to blizzard-like conditions.
“Heavy snow, icy conditions and strong winds causing blowing snow are creating dangerous driving conditions,” the emergency alert read, stating that highways and roads may be closed without notice and dozens of flights grounded or canceled outright.
Dozens of inbound and outbound flights were canceled or diverted to airports nearby such as Vancouver, Edmonton and Fort McMurray. The weather played havoc on runway snow removal operations and aircraft de-icing, also resulting in dozens of stranded passengers in-terminal.
British Airways flight 103 from London-Heathrow had originally been diverted to Edmonton having passengers stay onboard and wait patiently on the tarmac while awaiting radar weather forecasts.
The flight crew attempted to fly back to Calgary, circling the skies above Wetaskiwin waiting to get the green light from the ground crew, but due to the size of the Dreamliner, the runway lacked sufficient clearance due to so much snow on the ground.
Air Canada flight 844 to Frankfurt also had hopes of leaving Calgary International Airport, but after sitting on the tarmac for several hours – flight crew decided to play it safe and cancel altogether since the weather was showing no signs of improvement.
Many passengers scrambled to either book last minute hotel rooms or find a cozy couch in the terminal for the night until flights could be rebooked for the next day.
Adding insult to injury, taxis and shuttles were few and far between due to the hazardous driving conditions and road closures, so even those who were fortunate enough to get reservations at nearby hotels, the wait for the transportation was over one hour creating a massive backlog at most exits on the arrivals level.
Most travelers took in stride and didn’t see the point of getting irritated with mother nature. “Now we can say we survived our first real Canadian snowstorm,” joked American guests Patrick Murphy and his wife.
Airline, hotel and airport staff really pitched in on a day of irregular operations and gave guests a glimpse of the infamous western hospitality Calgary had to offer.