Near Wynyard at 5:47 Good Friday

Driving in Saskatchewan’s Easter storm
Yellowhead highway - Tuesday,April 10, 2012
by: Timothy W. Shire
images by: Matthew Shire

Good Friday was moving day for a family at Kelliher and our family was there to lend a hand. I left Tisdale at 7:00 AM and there was only light snow which petered out south of Archerwill turning to light rain all the way down highway #35 to Leross and over to Kelliher.

We started filling up the truck at just after nine and had the load in the truck by lunch time. After lunch there was a need to tighten up the load in the U-haul and while that was going on the light rain turned to icy driving rain so that working in the truck was miserable and the door had to be partially closed.

It was right around four that we pulled out of Kelliher with a convoy of three cars, two SUVs, a loaded pickup pulling a trailer and a U-haul. The picture on the right shows what we began to encounter between Leross and Bankend. A slurry of ice was accumulating on the road. This is not the sort of thing you encounter in winter but unique to other parts of Canada and the US where you get a snow storm in close to 0ºC. It wasn’t long until we realized that this was not going to be an easy journey.

The first ditched vehicle was two young women who went off the road in front of the U-haul and the last three vehicles in our group stopped. They were shaken up by the experience and one of our people hopped in checked out their car then drove it out of the ditch for them.


The slush on the road was the consistency of wet cement and if your tire moved off the bare trail your vehicle was almost instantly out of control. To regain control you had to get off the accelerator and wait until steering control returned. What this meant of course is that for the driver who put up a fight or was moving just a tad faster control was not possible and the vehicle slide off into the ditch. The first one of these was a pickup south of Elfros but as soon as we turned west on to highway #16 cars and trucks were running off the road one after another.

Because the snow of the winter is gone most of the cars in the ditch were able to move about many trying desperately to get back up onto the highway. In less than a mile we encountered two Malibus driving along in the ditch or sliding down the shoulder.

Two of the vehicles in our convoy had very little clearance which added yet another dimension to the difficult of staying on the road. The smallest vehicle had exceptional tires and was able to keep its footing but a Honda Civic was tail end charlie behind us and we saw it vanish from sight. I immediately turned around and head back and the Honda was heading west after having done a neat double highway centre spin. Remarkable oncoming traffic took evasive action and we kept on going.

Half a mile further the scene above and the image to the right shows two vehicles in the ditch at the same spot and huge bulldozer wading around about to lend assistance. The pick up below was definitely not coming out of the slough on its own.

On the right is a sedan only a few hundred yards from the intersection at Dafoe of highways #6 and #16. This young woman had spun out but only her back wheels were off the road. She was to far gone to be manually assisted and she was on her cell phone calling for a recovery vehicle.

Half of our group stopped for coffee at Dafoe while the other half got back in their vehicles and headed west. There were still challenges to be met but the road was improving. These two (below) were in at the same spot and the snow on the side of the sedan was plastered on it by the slide into the ditch.

You can see with these two pictures that the road surface is not as messed up but cars were still losing it and gliding off the surface.

The Yellowhead highway is not usually a place were you find responsible drivers. The traffic is almost always heavy and the trucks are the main vehicle on the road. But Friday was an exception. The drivers were saints. They were courteous doing their best not to be another ditched vehicle and really doing a great job of missing vehicles which were out of control. It was impressive to see drivers looking after one another as they were.

By Lanigan the ordeal was over. The snow and rain was over, the road was clear and the traffic was travelling at normal highway speeds. There was even a sunset at Saskatoon.