British Columbia

Winter storm set to bring up to 30 cm of snow to South Coast as extreme cold grips north

Environment Canada recommends postponing non-essential travel in Metro Vancouver Wednesday until conditions improve as rapidly accumulating snow will make roads hazardous.

Weather agency advises postponing non-essential travel in Metro Vancouver; wind chill as low as –45 C in north

A car is pictured after a tree fell onto it during a winter storm in Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Environment Canada has issued a slew of weather alerts for British Columbia as coastal and interior communities brace for heavy snowfall and frigid temperatures continue to create dangerous conditions in central and northern areas of the province.

Winter storm warnings are in effect Wednesday for several regions including Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the Central Coast, Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, the Okanagan Valley and the West Kootenay.

A low-pressure system is forecast to spread heavy snow across the South Coast starting Wednesday night, with up to 20 centimetres of snow predicted for Metro Vancouver by Thursday and up to 30 centimetres possible over Howe Sound and the Fraser Valley.

On Thursday, the snow will begin to transition to rain across Metro Vancouver as the system brings in milder air and temperatures begin to rise. 

According to CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe, the region has already seen about 40-60 centimetres of snow over the past few weeks.

Environment Canada is predicting up to 20 centimetres of snow for Metro Vancouver by Thursday and says drivers in the region should consider postponing non-essential travel as road conditions could be hazardous. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Environment Canada is recommending people only travel in Metro Vancouver for essential reasons until conditions improve as rapidly accumulating snow could make road conditions treacherous. 

TransLink says crews are preparing for the storm by swapping out its 18 metre-long buses for more agile 12-metre vehicles on steep routes such as up Burnaby Mountain and around the North Shore. In addition, a "UBC Snow Shuttle" will be implemented as needed to get bus passengers from Alma Street to the University of British Columbia.

In a news release, the transit authority said larger gaps are expected between SkyTrains due to the trains being operated manually during snowfall.

All Expo Lines from Waterfront will terminate at King George station, with those seeking to go to Production-Way University needing to transfer at New Westminster or Columbia stations.

Spokesperson Tina Lovgreen advised transit users to pad their commutes with extra time and check TransLink's website and Twitter for the latest route conditions.

Travellers can also expect up to 25 centimetres of snow across most of Vancouver Island before Thursday morning. The northern tip and Haida Gwaii could see a possible 30 centimetres and, along with the central and north coasts, high winds.

Snow on the Island is expected to turn to freezing rain early Thursday. During this transition, there is a risk of freezing rain for central and eastern Vancouver Island, as well as the Malahat Highway.

On Wednesday afternoon, the provincial government released a statement urging British Columbians across southwestern B.C. to be prepared for cold temperatures, power outages and slick streets.

"Residents should follow directions from First Nations and local governments," said the statement.

The province also said that if snowfall or freezing rain is accompanied by wind, two arterial bridges in the Lower Mainland could be closed – the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges across the Fraser River.

According to a government statement, high winds could pose a safety risk to technicians seeking to remove snow from bridge cables.

 ICBC has reported a sharp increase in calls to their Dial-a-Claim service amid the heavy snowfall and extreme weather.

A spokesperson reported 2,584 calls to the service on Tuesday, a 126 per cent increase compared to the 1,144 calls on Monday.

Extreme cold continues

The federal weather agency has also placed many central and northern communities under extreme cold warnings, with temperatures expected to dip below -40 C in the Peace River area, the Bulkley Valley, Cassiar Mountains, the Chilcotin, Fort Nelson and Prince George.

It says a very cold air mass is hovering over northeastern B.C. and will remain in place for the rest of the week.

For the Peace River region, there will be minimal relief from the cold during the daylight hours due to persistent winds.

At the most northern point of the province, around Dease Lake, wind chill values could drop to near or below -45 C, especially during the morning and overnight hours.

Wintry conditions in northern B.C. led to an ice jam on the Fraser River near Quesnel, B.C., on Tuesday. (Submitted by Kevin Toews)

There are also extreme cold warnings for southeast B.C. In the Elk Valley, it will feel like -35 C with the wind chill Wednesday afternoon, Environment Canada said.

"Extreme cold puts everyone at risk," it warned in a statement.

The agency is reminding people to cover up if they need to go outside, as frostbite can develop within minutes.

To find the precise weather predictions for your community, visit Environment Canada. For current road conditions, visit DriveBC. 

For a list of shelters, including women-only and family shelters where people experiencing homelessness can get out of the cold, visit B.C. Housing

With files from Akshay Kulkarni

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