A map of Saskatchewan’s northern highways, retrieved on May 9, 2022, shows closures on highways 905, 26 and 165. (Highway Hotline)PHOTO BY SASKATCHEWAN MINISTRY OF HIGHWAYS

Original Published 16:36 May 10, 2022

By Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Remote communities and mining operations in northern Saskatchewan depend on truckers to deliver essential supplies.

But this week,  a series of washouts on northern Saskatchewan highways has left some drivers stranded on the road.

Northern Resource Trucking (NRT), which hauls supplies for many mines in the province’s north, says 11 of its drivers were stuck on the other side of a washout as of Monday afternoon. 

“Nine of them have gotten to somewhere with resources, like a mine site (or) a restaurant,” said NRT safety manager Wendy Featherstone. “Two of them are stuck between washouts with no resources.”

One driver, relaying his situation back to NRT dispatch, described a close call on Highway 905. 

“(He) described it as ‘catastrophic,’ ” said Featherstone. “He said he got across and then it just looked like a waterfall behind him as the road fell away.” 

Featherstone says NRT’s truckers are well prepared for this situation, and carry extra food and warm clothes with them when they go up north. Some even bring fishing gear. 

And Featherstone says problems on the road, whether washouts, storms or fires, often bring out the best in northern drivers. 

“NRT has been hauling to these mines for 36 years, and one thing we’ve noticed is that everybody bands together up north when something happens,” she said. “They’ll meet up, they’ll convoy together, they’ll wait together, they’ll get food and share food together.”

But if the truckers are stuck in place for a long time, Featherstone says the government has historically been able to get people the supplies they need while repair crews work on the roads. 

“We’ve had (situations) in the past where the washouts were extended and about 10 of our trucks were trapped and they had to airlift food in for them,” she said. 

The stranded trucks are full of supplies for northern mines, which Featherstone says could include anything from groceries to cement and propane. 

Over the weekend, the province’s Ministry of Highways closed sections of Highway 905 between the junction with Highway 102 and Rabbit Lake Mine to flooding, flood damage, water on the road and washouts.

Sections of Highway 912, 26 and 165 are also closed because of floods or washouts. 

“I wish the highway workers the best of luck,” said Featherstone. “It is really challenging, and they’ve just come through a brutal window of trying to keep the roads graded. And now here’s spring, and they’re trying to keep the roads together.”

This item reprinted with permission from The StarPhoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan