Parts of British Columbia in grip of rare, extreme cold weather

By Denise Paglinawan
A woman with skates, a man and his son brave the elements after a snow storm in downtown Vancouver

By Denise Paglinawan

(Reuters) - Parts of British Columbia were in the grip of rare and extreme cold weather on Wednesday, resulting in school and daycare closures in Vancouver and throwing traffic into chaos, with residents in the Canadian western province advised against traveling.

Cold weather has spread across western Canada this week. In Edmonton, the capital of the province of Alberta, temperatures dropped to -36 Celsius (-33 Fahrenheit) as of Wednesday morning, according to Environment Canada.

The coldest spot in British Columbia was Puntzi Mountain, which recorded its lowest ever temperature of -48.2 Celsius (-55 Fahrenheit) at 8 a.m local time.

British Columbia normally enjoys relatively temperate weather through the year, and the city of Vancouver is better known for its rain than the snowy winters that define the rest of Canada. The temperature in Vancouver on Wednesday morning was -6 Celsius (21 Fahrenheit), according to Environment Canada.

Canadian newcomer Faustin Bameni-Wavedilla experienced his first snowfall this week. Coming from Congo, he arrived in British Columbia with his family almost seven months ago, he told CBC News.

"It's like cold cotton falling from the sky," Bameni-Wavedilla said.

Environment Canada has issued extreme weather warnings for several areas in British Columbia, including snowfall warnings for Fraser Canyon and Fraser Valley, and wind and snowfall warnings for Metro Vancouver.

CTV News B.C. reported 33 canceled flights and more than 30 delayed flights at Vancouver International Airport in the morning, while Metro Vancouver's TransLink B.C. said its light rapid transit system SkyTrain Canada had been experiencing system-wide delays.

Vancouver School District, which accounts for 50,000 students, closed all schools and some university campuses shut.

Environment Canada said a deep low pressure system will bring southeast winds of 70 to 90 kilometers per hour (45 to 55 miles per hour) in Greater Victoria early Wednesday evening, spreading to the southern Gulf Islands.

Winds are expected to ease Thursday morning.

"The roads are treacherous. Please stay home," the Abbotsford Police Department tweeted.


(Reporting by Denise Paglinawan in Toronto; Editing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O'Brien)