British Columbia

Snow, hurricane-force winds coming for South Coast as icy cold grips B.C.

As bone-chilling Arctic air continues to seize the region, a snowfall warning is in effect for Metro Vancouver, which could see up to 15 centimetres by Wednesday morning. 

Environment Canada warns of hurricane force winds and freezing spray in Howe Sound

Snow at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver, B.C., on Jan. 13, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As bone-chilling Arctic air continues to seize the region, a snowfall warning is in effect for Metro Vancouver, which could see up to 15 centimetres by Wednesday morning. 

A few more centimetres of snow is expected to fall Wednesday in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley. Environment Canada has also issued snowfall warnings or special weather statements for much of Vancouver Island, the southern Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast.

In Howe Sound, forecasters are warning of hurricane force winds of 45 to 55 knots early Wednesday, speeding up by the late afternoon to 55 to 65 knots. A freezing spray warning is also in effect.

Environment Canada is urging drivers to prepare for deteriorating road conditions that could have a "significant" impact on rush hour traffic. 

All classes at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford are cancelled Tuesday due to reduced bus service and "treacherous" driving conditions, the school said in an emailed statement.

The SUS shuttle but will not be operating past 4:30 p.m. but the school has hired a private coach for students travelling between Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

The school's buildings will remain open. 

Meanwhile, forecasters say the cold spell will ease up soon, though they warn milder conditions coming Friday could lead to a "messy" end to a slushy week on the South Coast.

A return to rain

The reprieve is expected to begin on Wednesday. Temperatures across the province will creep back toward 0 C on the Lower Mainland, according to Environment Canada. More seasonal temperatures for the Interior are due across B.C. by the weekend.

Environment Canada said extreme cold warnings across the province are expected to remain in place Tuesday before the current system moves on. The South Coast, where daffodils had begun to bloom last week, will face another round of below-zero temperatures and up to 10 centimetres of snow Tuesday night.

Forecasters said Friday will be the "transition day" on the South Coast. Bitterly cold, snowy air is expected to shift back to characteristic downpours.

Parts of the region can expect around 40 millimetres of rain on Friday, which isn't good news given the amount of snow the area has seen this week.

"It will be rain on snow, and that has caused the Lower Mainland and South Coast problems in the past," Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said.

Rain-soaked snow weighs heavily on structures, particularly weaker ones like sheds and outbuildings. Dense, saturated snow could also down power lines and cause another round of outages.

A man walks by palm trees covered in snow in Vancouver on Jan. 13, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The weather agency said localized flooding is also possible, as drains blocked with snow won't be able to handle the rain.

"It's going to be a pretty messy end to the week," Castellan said.

Snowy struggle

Weather conditions in recent days have led to travel nightmares across the province, particularly in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. 

A sudden blast of blowing snow across the area Sunday caused dozens of crashes, delays or closures on several highways and bridges, while as much as 25 centimetres of snow forced a number school districts — mainly in the Fraser Valley — to cancel classes on Monday. Ferries between the mainland and Vancouver Island were also called off due to wind.

Snow clearing on certain highways in Metro Vancouver, including Highway 1, are the jurisdiction of the B.C. government, but the rest are the responsibility of cities. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Morning commuters were warned to watch their speed on Monday and Tuesday as icy roads caused a number of vehicles and semi-trailers to lose control on major highways, including Highway 1, the Malahat Highway and the Coquihalla Highway.

Side streets and sidewalks were also treacherously slick.

B.C.'s cold spot hits –48 C

With the wind chill, temperatures along the North Coast have tumbled to –20 C, while the weather office said conditions have felt closer to –40 C near Prince George and –45 C along the boundaries with Yukon and northwestern Alberta.

Castellan said Puntzi Mountain in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region plummeted to –48 C Tuesday morning, only one degree shy of the coldest place in Canada.

More seasonal temperatures for the Interior are due by the weekend.

Severe winter shelters are open across the province for those who are homeless.

Jeremy Hunka, spokesperson for the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver, said many people living outside begin to get sick when the weather gets cold, and donated waterproof boots and jackets, as well as dry bedding, can make a huge difference.

The flag held by Mr. PG, the towering wooden mascot standing over Prince George, B.C., was frozen in the cold on Monday. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

With files from Yvette Brend and The Canadian Press


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