CALGARY - Wind howling with flesh-freezing ferocity, snowdrifts as high as your mirrors, and no rescue in sight for 17 frosty hours.
If anything was the highway to hell, it had to be the Trans-Canada on Monday night, where hundreds of motorists saw two lanes of asphalt quickly vanish beneath a blizzard of blowing snow.
“Visibility was so bad — it was extremely hard to see, and everyone was driving slow in general, like 60 to 80 km/h,” said Paul Stel.
“You couldn’t even see the lines on the road.”
Only a few minutes later, and the lack of a clear view didn’t much matter anymore.
Somewhere between Strathmore and Brooks, Stel’s SUV went from moving vehicle to overnight emergency shelter, after deteriorating conditions and minor collisions forced the convoy of crawling vehicles to stop, instantly stranding hundreds of motorists.
“The road wasn’t too bad until then, because the snow was blowing straight off it. But the minute traffic stopped, the cars gave the snow a place to build, and snowdrifts started,” said Stel.
The 24-year-old was one of the lucky ones: trapped on his way to an outdoor pipe fitting job in Medicine Hat, Stel had warm clothes, food and even a book and laptop to help while away the hours.
“I was fully prepared for it,” said Stel.