British Columbia

Heavy snow forecast for mountain highways as B.C. faces extended period of extreme cold, winter storms

The provincial government says heavy snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures are likely in many parts of the province until New Year's Day.

Snow, freezing rain, frigid temperatures likely in many parts of province through Jan. 1

The B.C. government is warning people across the province to be prepared for power outages, winter storm weather and poor road conditions between now and New Year's Day. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The provincial government is warning British Columbians to prepare for extremely cold temperatures, power outages and slick streets between now and the beginning of next year.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, a series of strong storms will clash with cold Arctic air, likely bringing periods of heavy and blowing snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures to many parts of B.C. until Jan. 1.

Winter storm, freezing rain and snowfall warnings issued early Wednesday by the weather agency cover many parts of B.C. 

The weather office says high elevation sections of numerous highways could also see significant snowfall by Thursday.

That includes up 60 centimetres of snow on the flood-damaged Coquihalla Highway between Hope and Merritt, up to 55 centimetres on Highway 3 from Hope to Princeton and 15 to 25 centimetres on Highway 97 between Clinton and 100 Mile House.

The Sea to Sky Highway, between Squamish and Whistler, could get up to 25 centimetres by Wednesday night. 

The weather arriving this week is the first of a batch of unstable conditions expected to pelt the province until New Year's Day.

"We are once again facing the potential for extreme weather in our province," said Mike Farnworth, minister of Public Safety, in a statement. "It is imperative that we all watch the weather carefully and look out for those who are most vulnerable."

The province says all shelters, including extreme-weather response shelters, are open throughout B.C. to make sure people experiencing homelessness have a warm place to sleep and can get out of the cold and rain.

Click here to find a list of shelters in B.C. and here for help locating a shelter in Metro Vancouver.

Drive carefully

Drivers are reminded to plan ahead and drive according to weather and road conditions if they must travel during the upcoming holiday season.

Rob Fleming, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, said in a statement that people should drive only if absolutely necessary in order to stay safe and keep essential goods moving in the wake of horrific flooding in mid-November that severely hampered highway travel.

 "Road conditions can change quickly. If you must travel, check the weather and plan routes before you leave to be as prepared as possible," warned Fleming.

Transport trucks move along the Coquihalla Highway Monday after it reopened to commercial traffic. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

On Monday, the Coquihalla Highway reopened for commercial traffic only after flood damage took out bridges along the route. Travel restrictions have been lifted from Highway 3 and Highway 99, both of which are mountainous routes with steep grades and winding curves where weather and road conditions can change quickly.

People who are not experienced with winter driving in the mountains are being asked by the province to use extreme caution on both routes and to consider alternatives for travel between the Lower Mainland and Interior.

During this precarious period, people are also being reminded to keep emergency supplies on hand at home and in their vehicles and to prepare for possible power outages and downed lines.

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