B.C.'s Coquihalla open in both directions after 2nd night of highway delays

According to DriveBC, northbound traffic on the Coquihalla highway between Hope and Merritt is now moving after being blocked overnight. The southbound lanes opened early Saturday.

'The weather can turn on a dime,' says B.C. minister of state for emergency preparedness

This photo taken the night of Feb. 10 shows the snowy conditions along B.C. Highway 5 near the Coquihalla Lakes junction. (Angela Robert)

A stretch of B.C.'s busy Coquihalla Highway, which was closed overnight because of bad weather, is open again in both directions.

The highway's northbound lanes opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, roughly six hours after the southbound lanes began moving again.

​It was the second night in a row that the highway, which links B.C.'s Lower Mainland to the Interior, was closed.

The shutdown caused a huge traffic backup, just as it did the previous night when the highway was closed by freezing rain and heavy snow, leaving motorists trapped in their vehicles for the entire frigid night.

On Saturday morning, some motorists tweeted about being at a standstill on the highway for more than three hours

DriveBC said one of the northbound lanes opened at 10 a.m. and urged drivers to use caution.

Drivers who were stuck on the highway late Friday reported long delays.

Angela Robert told CBC News that she and her husband had been driving south towards the Lower Mainland, but as of 9.30 p.m. had been stopped for more than three hours near the Coquihalla Lakes junction.

A view of the northbound Coquihalla Highway near the Box Canyon Rest Area between Hope, B.C and Merritt, just before 9 a.m. (DriveBC)

By 11.30 p.m., their car was still inching along the highway.

"It's a whole bunch of semi-trucks, mainly in one lane, and a whole bunch of cars in another," Robert said in a phone interview.  

Robert and her husband and six-month old baby were driving home to Coquitlam, B.C. from a ski resort in Kelowna. They left at 5 p.m. Friday, and normally the drive takes just over five hours.

 About halfway from Merrit to Hope, traffic stopped.

"Everything slowed. It was like a parking lot," Robert said. The couple, who also had two dogs in the car, had not yet reached Hope just before midnight.

However, traffic was still moving between Merritt and Kamloops.

B.C.'s Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness Naomi Yamamoto told reporters Saturday there was a lot of pressure to open the highway Friday afternoon.

"We would never have opened it had we not thought it was safe," Yamamoto said.

But conditions swiftly deteriorated, and officials were forced to close the road again.

'Dangerous' freezing rain

"Instead of getting snow, it turned to freezing rain and obviously that's dangerous," she said.

Yamamoto said the highway emergency is a reminder to drivers to heed warnings and to pack supplies in their cars, such as food, water, flares and warm clothing.

"These are severe weather conditions that are pretty unpredictable," she said. "Anyone who has driven the highways coming into the Lower Mainland knows that the weather can turn on a dime."

She noted that officials contracted to maintain B.C. highways handed out food and fuel to stranded motorists.

On Friday, DriveBC had warned of "significant delays in both directions due to traffic volume and congestion," as vehicles dealt with compact snow, icy roads, pooling water, and dense fog.

"Stay below 80 km/h, keeping speed appropriate for conditions," they wrote.

With files from the Canadian Press