By Joni MacFarlane
Crowsnest Pass Promoter
Southern Alberta’s infamous winds wreaked havoc on Highway 22 last week, flipping over four vehicles between Maycroft and Highway 3.
Crowsnest Pass RCMP were called out on Tuesday, December 11 at 9:13 a.m. as a semi tractor-trailer flipped over near Willow Creek Road.
Before the morning was over, another two semi tractor-trailers and a vehicle pulling a utility trailer had all experienced a similar fate.
Crowsnest Pass RCMP reported the four rollovers occurred between between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Minor injuries to two of the truck drivers were reported but no one was transported to hospital.
RCMP said the wind made it hard for officers to stand on the side of the road to investigate and assist motorists.
Alberta Transportation’s Rick Lemire, maintenance contract inspector, told The Promoter that the problem area starts at kilometre seven and runs to kilometre 20 along Highway 22 northbound from Highway 3. The strongest wind velocity recorded along this stretch was 189 km/hour. On the morning of Dec. 11, it was 143 km/hour, he added.
Last year, a task force initiated by Alberta Transportation that included RCMP and Alberta Health Services EMS proposed a system to warn motorists – particularly truck driver – of the excessive winds along this route.
According to Lemire, Alberta Transportation is in the midst of setting up such a warning system.
A Road Weather Information System (RWIS) has been installed on Highway 22 at the north end of the wind tunnel near Cow Creek. An RWIS is similar to the Alberta Motor Association cameras, he said, but detects more information such as wind velocity, road temperatures, maximum gust speeds and other data.
Lemire said the RWIS will be connected to two digital signs consisting of flashing lights and a “dynamic” message.
“When a certain wind velocity is detected (by the RWIS), the flashing lights will come on and the message will tell drivers what the wind speed is and to use an alternate route,” he said.
One sign will be installed on Highway 3 at the south end of Highway 22 so drivers can continue on and use Highway 2 northbound. The other will be at the west end of Secondary Highway 533 from Nanton.
Lemire said the project is currently in the design phase and sizing is being determined. They are also deciding what the wind speed should be to trigger the flashing lights and messaging, but suspects it will be around 80 km/hour.
The system is expected to be in place in February or March, said Lemire.