01/12/2013 10:30 EST | Updated 03/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Manitoba storm misses blizzard status

Missed it by nine minutes.

Winnipeg's winter storm fell that much shy of blizzard status.

To be officially considered a blizzard, a storm requires wind speeds of at least 40 km/h and visibility reduced to at least 400 metres — and it must be sustained for a minimum of four hours.

Visibility did drop as low as 200 metres and winds peaked at 74 km/h. But the conditions lasted just three hours and 51 minutes.

It also dumped 10 centimetres of fresh snow in the city, which is about half of what was expected.

Still, the storm packed a whallop and has left many streets clogged with snow drifts. And it's blowing light snow around in 40 km/h winds as of 10 a.m. CT.

Snow plows and sanding trucks are out in full force and have already cleared many of the main thoroughfares.

Winnipeg's manager of street maintenance, Ken Boyd, said as many as 150 pieces of snow clearing equipment could be used this weekend.

"Our main priority right now is major routes, the collectors and the bus routes. We're going to get them in operating shape before we look at the residential streets," he said.

Stranded drivers

Conditions are far worse outside the city, where a blizzard warning remains in effect for the southern part of the province — Morden, Winkler, Altona, Emerson, Morris, Steinbach, St. Adolphe, Dominion City, Vita, Richer.

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed Friday night from Winnipeg to the Saskatchewan border, leaving hundreds of drivers stranded.

It remained that way until about 10 a.m. Saturday when it reopened from the border to Brandon. It was fully opened the rest of the way to Winnipeg by noon.

Greg Cristanti, who owns a Tim Hortons restaurant in Virden, spoke to CBC News Saturday morning while the highway was still shut down. He described a line of about 200 semi-trailers alongside the road.

"Lots of coffee going out, lots of drink trays. They're taking them out there and they're making some friends out there helping each other out through the crappy situation," he said.

"It's pretty bad but [the drivers] are a little humorous — they come in asking for [job] applications, thinking that they're going to be there for a while and that maybe they can come in and help us pour some double-doubles this morning."

One of those stranded drivers, Andrew Bessen, said it was white-knuckle driving Friday night and despite his 33 years of experience on the highways, he was "so stressed out" and happy to see the road block.

"I was like, 'Oh, thank you, I don't have to drive any more. Let's go to bed,'" he said.

"I've been doing this a long time and I drive the mountains of B.C. quite a bit and I can drive in the snow and I can drive in the ice but I can't drive in whiteouts."

The Yellowhead Highway was also shut down, from the Trans-Canada all the way to Minnedosa, as was Highway 5 from Neepawa to McCreary.

Those routes are now all reopened and all of the blizzard and winter storm warnings have been lifted across the province.

The system has now moved into Northwestern Ontario.

Power problems

The storm had caused some power problems but they have all been repaired, according to Manitoba Hydro.

Spokesman Glenn Schneider said there were small outages in a number of areas, including Grande Point and Ile des Chene, but no reports of any major issues.

Some people had to endure a night without electricity, though, when the storm made it too dangerous for hydro crews to work.

"The road conditions were awful last night. We had to pull the crews off at about 10:30 p.m., conditions were just not amenable to doing any work at all," Schneider said.

Crews caught up on the work Saturday.

In the St. Pierre-Jolys area south of Winnipeg, Karen Letourneau and her husband were among those in the dark from Friday night until about 9 a.m. CT Saturday.

They managed to stay warm but living in the country, they even needed power for their water supply so things were getting worrisome.

They also learned a lot about their own ingenuity — Letourneau’s husband used a soldering torch to make her coffee this morning.

“And he went into our basement near the chimney so the fumes would go up the chimney, and he boiled the water in a stainless steel cup,” she said with a laugh.