British Columbia

B.C. winter storm turns Okanagan into #Snowkanagan

The snowstorm hitting B.C. has left residents of the Okanagan shovelling themselves out - and cross-country skiing through the streets.

Kamloops Coun. Donovan Cavers has taken to cross-country skiing to city hall

A staff member at The Noble Pig in Kamloops goes for a "swim" on the patio. (Samantha Garvey/CBC)

As B.C.'s first winter storm of the year continues to plow through the province, the snow has piled up in the Okanagan, prompting Twitter users to hashtag the wine-growing region #Snowkanagan instead.

The storm hit the southern interior Sunday night, and is expected to bring more snow and possible freezing rain west of the valley on Tuesday.

Meanwhile residents have been left to shovel themselves out of 46 centimetres of snow in Salmon Arm and 38 centimetres in Kelowna.

"First we had a continual freshening of Arctic air that was coming down from the Yukon, and over top of that was a continuous stream of warm, moist air from the pacific," Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells told Daybreak South's Chris Walker.

"You just ended up with all this snow."

Kelowna crews working 24/7 to clear snow

With more than a foot of snow on the ground in most places, cities were scrambling to keep up with snow clearing. 

"[The roads] are looking a lot better today than they were yesterday," said Stephen Bryans, the Roadways Operations Supervisor for the City of Kelowna.

City crews in Kelowna have been out in full force since Sunday night, but many streets are still covered in snow. (Jaimie Kehler/CBC)

Bryans said a break in the snow on Monday night allowed the city to catch up on clearing higher priority routes. Residents have complained the clearing isn't moving fast enough, but Bryans said crews are doing their best.

"Our fellows have been working 24/7 with huge long shifts. That's all I can say."

Kamloops councillor skies snowy streets

In Kamloops, the streets are still snow covered, but that hasn't stopped Coun. Donovan Cavers from getting around.

"I decided to take the opportunity, since it's not really bikeable weather, to jump on my skis and zip down to city hall," he told Daybreak South's Samantha Garvey.

Kamloops city councillor Donovan Cavers used his cross-country skis to get around downtown. (Samantha Garvey/CBC)

Cavers has cross-country skied in other parts of the city before, but said going downtown was a first.

"There's a few more obstacles in town. I would recommend if you're a first timer to go up to Stake Lake."

He said he's received a few strange looks for his skis, but is having fun in the snow.

"When life throws you lemons — you know the saying."

Shovelling sidewalks 3 times a day

While many schools were closed because of the snow, business owners in Kamloops still had to go to work to clear out their sidewalks.

"We're trying to keep the sidewalks clean for Kamloops shoppers," said Anthony Salituro with Jardine's Domain and Viva Bridal and Prom — while shovelling the sidewalk for the third time in one day.

"I've lived in Kamloops my whole life. Back in the day, 20 years ago, we used to get this type of snow, but not in one day. Not over 24 hours."

Many businesses in Kamloops closed because of the snow, but business owners still had to shovel the sidewalks out front. (Samantha Garvey/CBC)

High avalanche risk forecast in backcountry

The snow is a tempting treat for backcountry enthusiasts, but also comes with avalanche risks.

"Right now it's actually a fairly straightforward problem," said James Floyer, a senior avalanche forecaster with Avalanche Canada.

"Danger really is high and we're anticipating for this storm to go for a little bit longer and then for temperatures to warm up."

Floyer said because the snow fell so fast, it hasn't had time to settle, making a slide or avalanche more likely. He said about a metre beneath the snow is a slick crust left over from December.

"The thing that's going to do most is increase the potential size of avalanches," said Floyer, who added the high risk should come as no surprise to residents dealing with the snow on their front steps.

"It took me about an hour to shovel my driveway this morning, and as I did so, I noticed my roof — I have a 40 degree roof — and my roof avalanche, and I would call that a good size one avalanche … you can imagine what kind of picture that's painting up in the mountains."

Get more - listen to our interviews

Our radio producers have been out on the snowy streets of the Okanagan, capturing the sounds and stories of the snowstorm. Take a moment to hear from the people featured in this story by listening to our audio clips:

  • To hear more from Kamloops residents tackling the snow, click the audio labelled: Kamloops hit by 29 centimetres of snow.
  • To get an update on interior weather and roads as of Tuesday, click the audio labelled: Snowy conditions continue in interior.
  • To find out more about avalanche warnings, click the audio labelled: High avalanche danger in B.C. interior.

With files from Daybreak South and Daybreak Kamloops


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?