Snowstorm about to hit southwestern British Columbia triggers warning to avoid non-essential travel

A snowstorm is expected to hit the south coast of British Columbia on Tuesday evening and, combined with strong winds, will create dangerous driving conditions in much of southwestern British Columbia, warns Environment Canada.

Yimei Li, a meteorologist with the federal weather agency, said the snow will hit Vancouver Island first before starting to fall in Metro Vancouver around 4 p.m., and will be accompanied by strong winds Wednesday morning with gusts between 40 and 70 km/h.

Low-lying areas like Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey and Langley can expect 10 to 15 centimeters of snow overnight, Environment Canada said in a series of weather warnings, while higher areas like North Vancouver , Coquitlam and Maple Ridge could see up to 20 centimeters. For Richmond and Delta, 5 to 10 centimeters of snow are expected.

Up to 25 centimeters of snow is forecast for interior parts of Vancouver Island, with around 5 to 10 centimeters in southern areas. Strong southeasterly winds crossing the Strait of Georgia, with gusts up to 90 km/h, are expected. The Sunshine Coast aims for 10-15 centimeters with winds of up to 80 km/h.

Environment Canada also issued winter storm warnings for roads including Sea to Sky, Coquihalla and Okanagan Connector, saying heavy snowfall and high winds could create near-zero visibility at times.

The snow is expected to ease or turn to rain by Wednesday morning, which could cause slippery roads and poor visibility.

Li recommends avoiding non-essential travel on Tuesday evenings and Wednesdays.

« If it goes from snow to rain, the results will be pretty messy. Tomorrow morning we’re looking at very high impact weather for the Lower Mainland, » Li said.

Snow weighing on the branches in combination with gusty winds could cause tree branches to break.

« The best thing to do is to stay home or stay under cover during this time. Traveling during a snowstorm is very dangerous, » Li said.

Several flights departing from Vancouver and Abbotsford airports on Tuesday and Wednesday have already been canceled in anticipation of inclement weather. Vancouver International Airport is asking travelers to allow extra time to get to the airport and to check with airlines for updated flight information.

Snow preparations in progress

Crews began applying salt and brine to highways in Metro Vancouver on Tuesday morning to prepare for snowfall.

Mainroad, the company contracted by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to remove snow, says staff are also patrolling and are ready to start plowing as soon as the snow starts to hit the ground.

« Our crews work 24/7, so they’re there all the time to monitor road conditions and make sure they’re safe, » said Darren Ell, General Manager of Mainroad.

She warned drivers to avoid traveling unless their vehicle is prepared and they are comfortable driving in the snow.

« If you encounter a plow, stay right behind them. They’re going slow, but they’re there to secure the roads, that’s the best place to be. Stay back, don’t pass, » Ell said.

The City of Vancouver says its crews are patrolling and grouting major roads, bus routes, bridges, sidewalks and streets adjacent to hospitals.

« We feel really prepared for the weather, » said Amy Sidwell, street operations manager.

Sidwell said residential streets are not salted or plowed by the city, except for driveways to schools or hospitals and some steep hills.

TransLink is in communication with municipalities to ensure roads are plowed, spokesman Dan Mountain said at a news conference Tuesday.

TransLink unveiled its reindeer bus at a press conference on Tuesday, where it also discussed its plans to maintain public transit in snowy weather. (Fred Gagnon/Radio Canada)

Mountain said crews are applying de-icer to trolley cables and power rails, and they’ve replaced several 60-foot articulated buses with 40-foot ones, which he says are more nimble in the snow.

« We will notify customers as soon as we become aware of any delays. At the moment the system is working very well. »

Mountain said people can sign up for transit alerts, check Translink’s Twitter account or call the customer information line at 604-953-3333 for updated information.

Clothing donations sought

The cold spell prompted the opening of warming centers in Vancouver and other cities in the region, in addition to the usual temporary winter shelters.

In Vancouver, additional overnight warming centers opened Monday night at Powell Street Getaway in the Downtown Eastside and Marpole Neighborhood House in South Vancouver. An additional warm-up center at Odd Fellows Hall in Fairview will open at 9:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) of Vancouver is preparing to provide shelter for more people in cold weather.

“Our biggest concern is always for our community members and we try to make sure there are spaces for them to come inside,” said UGM spokesperson Nicole. Mucci.

Mucci said people wanting to help can donate winter gear to UGM at 601 East Hastings St. They need items like waterproof jackets, pants, gloves, toques, scarves and heating bags.

« Even though people can get to a shelter at night, it doesn’t always warm up during the day, so you still need that gear to stay warm. »


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