More snow pelts Lower Mainland, bringing traffic delays and power outages for many

·3 min read
A person shovels snow from a sidewalk in West End, Vancouver as heavy snowfall at dusk turned roads slippery. (Andrew Lee/CBC - image credit)
A person shovels snow from a sidewalk in West End, Vancouver as heavy snowfall at dusk turned roads slippery. (Andrew Lee/CBC - image credit)

Snowfall again pelted much of B.C.'s Lower Mainland on Saturday, causing more than 1,000 B.C. Hydro customers to lose power and with the forecast suggesting rain, driving conditions will likely worsen.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, that snow is expected to continue overnight in the Fraser Valley with a risk of freezing rain, but forecast to turn into rain elsewhere in the Greater Vancouver area this afternoon — leading to potentially dangerous driving conditions.

"The snow doesn't appear to be sticking too much in low-lying areas," said Gregg Walters, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, told CBC News. "It's switched over to rain at Vancouver Airport and White Rock as well, but we're still looking at a risk of freezing rain especially in the western part of the Fraser Valley.

"The freezing rain should generally be over by morning ... it doesn't look to be as long a period of an event as what we had a few days ago."

B.C. Hydro/Twitter
B.C. Hydro/Twitter

He said heavy snowfalls from last Wednesday and Thursday set local daily records, with Vancouver getting 14 centimetres of snow and Abbotsford pummelled with at least 15 centimetres. Those numbers could be roughly five centimetres higher if both days' snow dump were added together.

"We are right now in the peak of the snow season for the South Coast," Walters said. "It's a significant snowfall for even this time of year."

As of Saturday afternoon, power was out for more than 1,000 B.C. Hydro customers in the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast, with a total of 75 regional electrical outages; on northern Vancouver Island, 1,500 people found themselves without power.

Many of the power utilities notices cited the snow storm, adverse weather and downed power lines as reasons for the outages.

Across the province, too, extreme cold warnings are in place, as well as ongoing Arctic outflow warnings for several areas in the north. The heavy snowfall is expected to intensify in the afternoon in Prince George, Quesnel, and the Bulkley Valley.

On Saturday morning, DriveBC issued a "high avalanche risk" warning to motorists on several major B.C. routes, with closures for avalanche control underway on Highways 1, 3, 12, 16, 31 and 99, many of them vital supply lifelines to and from the Interior after last November's devastating floods. Highway 3 between Hope to Princeton, one of those key routes, re-opened by 1 p.m. after avalanche control work ended.

The province's Transportation Ministry said in a statement that sections of Highways 1 and 3 have been closed since Thursday due to large avalanche deposits on the highway.

"Crews are working to clear the deposits after receiving clearance from the avalanche team,'' the statement said.

Weather has not yet forced B.C. Ferries to cancel any of its Saturday sailings, but an unrelated "staffing issue" saw sailings between the Southern Gulf Islands and Tsawwassen terminal axed for the afternoon.

A frontal system near the Yukon border will push wind-chill temperatures near or below -45 C. A warning for the central coast near Bella Bella says a low pressure system will bring five to 10 centimetres of snow before turning to rain midday.

"Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions,'' the statement says.

Those further north are urged to prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions.

"Public Safety Canada encourages everyone to make an emergency plan and get an emergency kit with drinking water, food, medicine, a first-aid kit and a flashlight,'' the warning says.

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