Ferries cancelled as winter storm brings high winds to B.C.'s South Coast, snow inland

A nasty winter storm pummeling much of B.C. incapacitated part of the ferry system linking the mainland and Vancouver Island on Friday, while coating major highway passes and northern areas of the province in a heap of fresh snow.

Environment Canada posted new weather warnings Friday for much of central and southern B.C., as well as the Coquihalla Highway and Trans-Canada Highway — the busiest highway routes linking the Lower Mainland and the Interior. 

The South Coast will bear the brunt of the wind. Gusts of up to 70 km/h on Friday will be joined by downpours across much of Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley, according to the agency.

BC Ferries cancelled sailings on seven routes Friday due to high winds, including numerous sailings between Tsawwassen and both the Duke Point and Departure Bay docks in Nanaimo.

"Wind gusts are quite excessive so in the interest of safety, we are cancelling these sailings," said corporation spokesperson Deborah Marshall, explaining that wind makes it difficult to dock ferries safely.

BC Hydro is warning its customers to brace for more potential outages as cleanup from a New Year's Eve snowstorm continues. Several thousand BC Hydro customers are still in the dark around Kamloops, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Nakusp after that storm knocked out power to around 160,000 properties in the central and southern Interior.

As for the island, a flood watch was issued for north and west Vancouver Island on Friday morning as the week's rain gushed into rivers. Waterways are expected to continue to rise Friday as the weather conditions continue. Locals are advised to stay away from fast-flowing rivers and unstable riverbanks until water levels return to normal.

RCMP

Environment Canada ended rainfall warnings for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley just before 9:30 a.m. PT.

As for highway travellers driving through the storm, Environment Canada warned the Coquihalla Highway could see up to 25 centimetres of fresh snow once another round of flurries begins Friday evening. Forecasters said the snow will taper off on Saturday.

A similar snowfall warning is in effect for Highway 1 between Revelstoke and Golden, as well as for the North Columbia and Kinbasket regions. Highway 1 was closed in both directions west of Revelstoke due to a vehicle incident just before noon. Traffic was stopped for approximately one hour before reopening for single lane alternating.

Drivers are advised to slow down and use caution on both highways.

Fresh snow and warming temperatures in the Sea to Sky region prompted a rare extreme avalanche warning from Avalanche Canada on Friday. The warning means avalanches, both natural and human-triggered, are "certain." Anyone going into the mountains should avoid all avalanche terrain entirely, according to the association.

Forecasters have warned that the Pacific storm, which began Thursday, would bring 100 to 150 millimetres of rain to parts of the province by its end.