Environment Canada has issued a snow squall watch again for Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa – along the shores of Lake Superior. As a result of the last snow squalls to hit the area, Highway 17 was closed several times causing havoc for travelers. The first was Wednesday, December 14th at 2:35 a.m. from Batchawana to Wawa, and almost 10 hours later, the highway was reopened at 11:45 a.m.
After being stranded in the Sault Tuesday night (the roads were so bad we had turned around at Dead Man’s Cove just south of Mamainse Harbour), we decided to see if we could go home. At 1:26 p.m. after lunch and a stop at Superior Bakery, we were on the road. However, things were not promising at all, Great Northern was a great white blur.
From Schultz’s Side Road to Highway 556 there were seven vehicles in the ditch, one a transport. We kept going, the highway was open, surely this was only a squall and it would be better just ahead… I decided then to take photos and tweet them, so that people would have a good look at the road and weather conditions, in as near real-time as possible given the spotty cell coverage.
It took us 3 hours and 19 minutes to get to Wawa from the Sault, an hour more than a normal trip – but it certainly felt good to be home.
We were lucky though, the storm and Lake Superior wasn’t finished yet… At 6:48 p.m. Wednesday night, the decision was made once again to shut the highway down, this time from Heyden to Wawa. It would remain closed until Thursday afternoon at 1:21 p.m., an 18 1/2 hours later. However, the highway was only open from the Soo to Batchawana – not to Wawa. Two and a half hours later, the weather eased enough that the highway was opened between the Sault to Wawa.
That wasn’t the end of the snow squalls, though, in the wee hours of Friday morning, 2:13 a.m., Highway 17 was closed once again from Heyden to Wawa for “poor weather causing hazardous driving conditions”. By 9:30 a.m. OPP reopened the highway from Heyden to Batchawana, but once again the squalls between Batchawana and Wawa were so severe the highway remained closed. At 8:30 Friday night, the northbound lanes were opened from Batchawana to Wawa, and 9:52 travel resumed both ways. For 19 and a half hours, there was no travel between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie. For the storm’s duration from Wednesday (2:35 a.m.) to Friday (8:30 p.m.) 54 hours!, the highway was closed 50.5 hours.
Our thoughts about the trip. Glad we turned back, simply put, it wasn’t worth it to continue when we knew from the radar – it wasn’t getting better in any hurry. Great resources to have is local media. MyAlgoma, MyWawa, SaultOnline all worked hard during the storm to keep information current for readers. Environment Canada with Montreal River Radar – it doesn’t lie about the weather. Plow drivers, and Patrollers, Ontario511 and OPP had their hands full with disgruntled travelers unable to access information about the road closures. We saw lots of plows, but they can’t do anything about the poor visibility. The new additions to the Ontario511 site, the weather cams would be much better if mobile friendly, for those folks on the road who need that information on their cells. The cameras would be absolutely fabulous if they actually showed photography of the day in question, with date and time readily visible. And make the time, local time – who uses UTC?
In all, we made it home safe and sound – a little delayed, but home!