Travel, avalanche warnings issued as freezing rain blasts B.C.'s South Coast after overnight snow dump

·4 min read
A truck drives down a steep hill in Vancouver on Thursday. Around 20 centimetres of snow has fallen on Metro Vancouver.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A truck drives down a steep hill in Vancouver on Thursday. Around 20 centimetres of snow has fallen on Metro Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

After a heavy overnight snow dump on British Columbia's South Coast, freezing rain is expected to make a mess of roads Thursday, prompting warnings against non-essential travel.

According to Environment Canada, snow will begin to transition to rain across Metro Vancouver as milder air moves in and temperatures begin to rise. Heavy rainfall on top of melting snow could create slippery road conditions and water pooling.

"Consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve," the weather agency says in a winter storm warning issued for the region.

According to DriveBC, multiple collisions are being reported throughout the region and are creating significant delays.

A travel advisory has been issued for the Fraser Valley on Thursday evening due to freezing rain and wintry conditions.

Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton has been closed due to avalanche risk in the area, while the Port Mann Bridge was closed Thursday night for winter maintenance. Drivers are asked to take an alternate route.

Up to 50 millimetres of rain is forecast to fall across Metro Vancouver by Friday morning, on top of at least 20 centimetres of snow that fell across the region late Wednesday into Thursday morning.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Freezing rain, wind warning in Vancouver Island

Freezing rain is also expected to pelt Vancouver Island, where roads have already been slick with black ice and snow for days.

Through the morning, snow will change to freezing rain over inland areas including Port Alberni, Lake Cowichan and also for the Malahat Highway. There is also a risk of freezing rain for east Vancouver Island and Victoria, where almost 30 centimetres of snow fell.

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria, as winds could reach up to 70 km/h, gusting to 90 km/h, on Friday.

B.C. Transit suspended most of its bus routes through the Greater Victoria area Thursday morning. Updates will be posted on the B.C. Transit alerts page.

Impacted flights, sailings

Airports in Vancouver and Victoria were reporting early delays and telling travellers to check with their airlines, while B.C. Ferries scrubbed its first departures of the day from Swartz Bay and Duke Point, plus return sailings from Tsawwassen, when snow kept crews from reaching the terminals on time.

Schools close, Canada Post suspends mail, crews work to restore power

The weather conditions have forced most school districts and university campuses on the South Coast to cancel classes Thursday.

This includes most Vancouver Island schools from Victoria to Campbell River, as well as those in Metro Vancouver including Simon Fraser University, the University of B.C. and the Justice Institute of B.C.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, power was shut down at Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus to allow crews access to hydro lines damaged by weather, with the outage expected to last 75 minutes.

Canada Post announced Thursday it was suspending mail service to the City of Vancouver but expanded it later in the day to include the entire Metro Vancouver region.

Mail service is also suspended on Vancouver Island until weather conditions improve. If customers have questions regarding mail delivery, they can contact Canada Post's Customer Service team at 1-866-607-6301.

Power outages are also currently plaguing the South Coast, with B.C. Hydro crews working to restore electricity for over 20,000 customers Thursday, primarily on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Dashwood Fire Department
Dashwood Fire Department

Frostbite possible

Elsewhere in B.C., extreme cold continues to pose life-threatening risks to anyone exposed to the elements.

On the North Coast, including the communities of Stewart, Terrace, Kitimat, Gitwinksihlkw and Bella Coola, the wind chill could make temperatures feel between -20 C and -35 C.

In the Peace River region, it could drop to -40 C and in Dease Lake and Fort Nelson, it could feel like -45 C.

CBC / Radio-Canada
CBC / Radio-Canada

Environment Canada is warning people to watch for cold-related symptoms including: shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and colour change in fingers and toes.

"Cover up. Frostbite can develop within minutes on exposed skin, especially with wind chill," it warns.

Temperatures are not as extreme in the province's southern Interior, but snowfall warnings have been issued for much of that region, with up to 40 centimetres expected for the Coquihalla Highway.

Heavy snow in the Interior is expected to taper to flurries Thursday morning and then turn heavy again over the Fraser Canyon and Boston Bar late in the afternoon, and over the Shuswap area and north Okanagan in the evening.

To find the precise weather predictions for your community, visit Environment Canada. For current road conditions, visit DriveBC.

For a list of shelters, including women-only and family shelters where people experiencing homelessness can get out of the cold, visit B.C. Housing.

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