B.C. South Coast hit by another, 'messier' winter storm late Wednesday

B.C. South Coast hit by another, 'messier' winter storm late Wednesday

A brief reprieve from a powerful snowstorm on B.C.'s South Coast was short lived with residents hit by another big snowstorm Wednesday afternoon.

Environment Canada issued a fresh round of weather warnings as another winter storm approaches the region, hours after an extraordinary snowfall closed every public school and university across the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island earlier in the day. 

"It's a pretty heavy burst of flurries here in the city right now," meteorologist Matt MacDonald said mid-afternoon. 

He described the later storm as "messier," and pointed to the five centimetres that accumulated around the Vancouver area within less than an hour.

Ben Nelms/CBC

"This last week has been incredible," he said.

"To have five back-to-back snow storms like this [since Friday] is really exceptional. I'm thinking the storm cycle will indeed be one for the record books."

The forecast calls for another 10 to 15 centimetres of snow mixed with rain overnight Wednesday into Thursday and the possibility of freezing rain in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the southern Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast, beginning after Wednesday's evening commute. But high winds made an impact even before that.

Watch how they hit the Gibsons, B.C., waterfront:

Strong winds are also in the forecast, and a rare hurricane-force wind warning in effect for Howe Sound.

"It's going to be really messy on the roads tonight and into tomorrow morning," said MacDonald, who said he skied to work on Wednesday.

Ben Nelms/CBC

The B.C. government has already asked drivers to stay off many roads on the South Coast if they can, due to blowing snow, icy roads and overall perilous conditions.

An advisory covered four Vancouver Island highways, including Highway 1 between Nanaimo and Victoria. The notice was issued shortly after a section of Highway 1 just east of Vancouver was shut down entirely.

MacDonald said Thursday morning will likely be a similar story.

Every public school and post-secondary institution from the eastern Fraser Valley to Victoria and Nanaimo cancelled classes Wednesday after the storm dumped at least 25 centimetres of snow in many areas. Parts of the island and elevated areas of Metro Vancouver saw up to 40 centimetres in a matter of hours.

Commuters on the Lower Mainland were told to stay home. Those who braved wintry conditions were met with lengthy waits, stranded buses and, in some cases, SkyTrain attendants who told them to go home. Three train stations in Surrey and New Westminster had to be closed down.

Submitted by Matt MacDonald

The snow is expected to turn to at least 40 millimetres of rain on the South Coast by Friday, though forecasters warned  such precipitation after a big snowfall isn't good news. Rain-soaked snow weighs heavily on power lines and secondary buildings like sheds, carports and barns, increasing risk of power outages and collapses. 

"We already have 20 to 50 centimetres [of snow] on the ground. You add 40 to 70 millimetres of water to that and it's going to be very, very heavy," said MacDonald.

Storm drains buried by snow will also be clogged. Homeowners are advised to clear sidewalks and drains around their property Wednesday afternoon before the snow returns.

Extreme cold, winter storm or snowfall warnings remain in effect for most of British Columbia. Wind chill values in B.C.'s Interior have been hovering around –40 C.

B.C. has been battered by harsh winter weather and a series of extreme storms since winter solstice on Dec. 21.