Some schools closed, thousands without power after wind and snow hit B.C.'s South Coast

A powerful windstorm that knocked out power in many regions across B.C.'s South Coast overnight lessened in strength Thursday morning, though thousands of people in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island remain without power.

Gusts between 70 and 90 km/h blasted through the region late Wednesday. Hurricane-force winds hitting 130 km/h produced blizzard conditions in the Howe Sound area.

At the storm's peak, more than 23,000 people were without power. Around 16,300 remain in the dark Thursday morning.

Wind warnings have been lifted across the South Coast, aside from the Sunshine Coast. An Arctic outflow warning has been posted for the Fraser Valley, with winter storm and snowfall warnings in place for parts of Vancouver Island as well as the Okanagan.

Environment Canada has warned the South Coast is still in the midst of a series of winter storms that have so far dumped up to 40 centimetres of snow in some areas in a matter of days, closing schools and universities across regions and marring the roads to the point where the province asked motorists to stay home.

Many roads will still be thick with snow and ice Thursday. The Ministry of Transportation has said it may have to close bridges and highways Thursday as a precautionary safety measure if the next storm becomes severe.

The department also said parts of Highway 1 in the Fraser Valley, west of Hope, B.C., may be shut down again due to blowing snow and poor visibility. The same stretch was closed for hours Wednesday for the same reason.

Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC

School closures

So far, the following school districts have announced closures on Thursday:

  • Chilliwack (SD33)
  • Fraser Cascades SD78)
  • Mission (SD75)
  • Campbell River (SD72)
  • Comox Valley (SD71)
  • Sunshine Coast (SD46)

Public school and post-secondary institutions from the eastern Fraser Valley to Victoria and Nanaimo cancelled classes for Wednesday, after the storm dumped at least 25 centimetres of snow in many areas.

The City of Vancouver said 40 to 50 snow removal trucks will be out in the daytime Thursday to clear major routes. They are also expecting a risk of freezing rain.

Travel chaos

Commuters on the Lower Mainland were also told to stay home Wednesday as TransLink said service would be "significantly slower" across the region. Those who braved wintry conditions were met with impossibly long waits and stranded buses.

The situation may be similar Thursday. Commuters are asked to leave themselves extra time to get where they're going.

Forecasters have said Friday will be a "transition day" away from snowy weather to rain for the South Coast.

Ben Nelms/CBC