Drivers urged to use caution after snow blankets B.C.'s South Coast

·5 min read
A man shovels his walk after an overnight snowfall in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A man shovels his walk after an overnight snowfall in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Residents of B.C.'s South Coast from Vancouver Island to Chilliwack woke up to winter landscapes and snow-covered roads after a storm system swept through the region overnight.

Beginning Wednesday evening, the storm brought snowfall up to 25 centimetres in some areas.

Environment Canada meteorologist Philippe-Alain Bergeron said the storm followed a somewhat unusual trajectory.

"It's a little compact storm that was making its way down the coast and it's really squeezed between that big upper ridge over the Pacific and that's why the trajectory was almost north to south," he said.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

The weather agency lifted snowfall warnings for much of the South Coast later Thursday morning as the snowfall tapered off.

Meanwhile, Arctic highs are still being felt over B.C's Interior and the Canadian Prairies. Bergeron said Thursday will be colder than average in British Columbia, but only by about 5 degrees compared to the 10 to 15 degrees colder-than-average temperatures experienced over the last few days.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Crews busy clearing snowy roads

Road crews have already been plowing bus routes, highways, bridges and tunnels in the Lower Mainland.

Darren Ell, general manager for Mainroad Lower Mainland Contracting, said 30 trucks from his company have been out for hours moving massive amounts of snow off provincial highways between the U.S. border and 1st Avenue in Vancouver.

"Vehicles are getting through, but it's winter driving conditions," he said. "If you don't have to come into work, stay home for a couple hours and come in later."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Surrey RCMP spokesperson Vanessa Munn warned drivers to slow down and be patient if they have to go out.

"Be aware that it's going to take significantly longer to get anywhere this morning," she said. "Even if you have a 4x4 or a vehicle with snow tires that may allow you to drive a little bit quicker, it doesn't help you stop faster."

Mainroad does not clear city roads, which are the responsibility of the municipalities.

A City of Vancouver staff member said crews were out plowing and sanding roads all night and that the city's snow removal plan clears roadways in order of priority, starting with bus routes, arterials and bridges, emergency evacuation routes and routes next to to major hospitals.

Transit commuters are experiencing delays due to the snowfall as SkyTrain cars are being operated manually and buses are trapped in the snow.

"Buses are only as good as the roads they drive on, which is why we're actively working with municipalities to ensure major roads are cleared and there's access to our transit centres," said TransLink spokesperson Tina Lovgreen.

She added customers should dress for the weather conditions and check transit alerts for their route before leaving the house.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

The heavy snowfall has forced Canada Post to cancel deliveries for the rest of Thursday for the Gulf Islands, Nanaimo and South Vancouver Island, Powell River and the Sunshine Coast, and the Lower Mainland including Metro Vancouver.

Ell said the provincial roads his company is responsible for were cleared and brined before the snowfall, so they won't be icy and the snow accumulation will be cleared quickly.

That will give drivers and commuters some relief before the next winter storm Bergeron said is forecast to arrive Saturday, this time from the Pacific. There's also a chance the snow turns to rain on Sunday.

"This could be a very exciting New Year's long weekend with snow then rain then snow again as a plausible scenario," he said.

B.C. Ferries cancels sailings

B.C. Ferries cancelled four sailings between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay on Thursday due to a "staffing issue."

A spokesperson confirmed the staffing problem on the Coastal Renaissance was related to the weather.

In a statement, B.C. Ferries said "we require a specific number of crew members on board the vessel to ensure the safety of our passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency and to comply with Transport Canada regulations."

Passengers with bookings on the affected sailings will have their bookings cancelled and reservation fees refunded.

Busy time for plumbers

The recent cold snap has been a busy time for local plumbers.

Duane Leong, owner of Marvel Plumbing and Drainage in Burnaby, says he has been overwhelmed with calls about frozen water lines. He said his company normally fields 10 to 15 calls a day and they are now answering calls every two minutes.

"You want to help out everybody and you can hear kind of like the panic in people's voices," he said.

"They basically have no water and you can't possibly get there. There's only so much as a team that we can possibly do and I'm sure other companies are experiencing the same thing that we are."

Leong said he has been so busy fielding calls that he hasn't had time to deal with his own home.

"At my house there's no actual water there," he said. "I went to turn on the tap too and was like, 'There's no water coming out, it must be frozen,'" he said. "I haven't had a chance to go over there and fix it because we're just helping everybody else."

Leong says people should look to ensure their pipes are well-insulated, know where their water shut-off valve is located in their house or condo, and check whether outside hoses are turned off.

"This is unheard of," Leong said of the recent cold weather. "I don't think Vancouver is prepared for something like this."

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