Coquihalla Highway closed again due to hazardous conditions
The highway was briefly reopened in the afternoon but quickly closed; Kootenay Pass remains closed
B.C.'s Coquihalla Highway was reopened in both directions from Hope to Merritt for a time after severe weather and multiple crashes Thursday afternoon, but has since closed again.
The highway's closure shortly before noon effectively blocked one of the last remaining routes to Vancouver from the B.C. Interior.
DriveBC said there were a number of vehicle incidents on the highway Thursday morning.
VSA Highway Maintenance — the company that maintains the highway — said the area was experiencing freezing rain.
While it reopened around 4 p.m. PT, the conditions were still very hazardous, and by 6 p.m. it was once again closed between Hope and Merritt.
Gridlock on the Coquihalla highway between Hope & Merrit. Pure ice, I've never seen conditions this bad. <a href="https://t.co/EdUA6rYA4s">pic.twitter.com/EdUA6rYA4s</a>—@surleevintner
Hwy 3, Hwy 1 also closed heading to Hope
The usual alternative route, Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton, remains closed due to the high avalanche risk. Highway 1 is also closed from Yale to Jackass Mountain, north of Hope.
A number of youth workers from the Lower Mainland were among the stranded travellers in Merritt during the earlier closure.
The workers with Youth Unlimited were travelling in a convoy from a conference in West Kelowna, when they were told to go back.
"We were on the highway to Vancouver and they literally just put up the cones as we were leaving Merritt and turned us around," said Mark Koop, the group's executive director.
"We asked them how long the closure would be and they said, 'just pray.'"
If you live in the Vancouver, here is the only way you can get to Kelowna through B.C. without any delays right now. <a href="https://t.co/2riFbWG5kY">pic.twitter.com/2riFbWG5kY</a>—@j_mcelroy
Kootenay Pass still closed
The Nicola Valley Evangelical Free Church has offered to let the group stay the night, if necessary.
"We were prepared. We came with pillows and sleeping bags for our retreat, so we're all ready to do it again," said group member Robbie Taylor.
Meanwhile the RCMP's East Kootenay Traffic Services is asking motorists to reconsider plans to drive on East Kootenay highways, as a severe winter storm moves through the area.
The traffic unit says it has attended multiple collisions throughout the day and is advising drivers to stay home.
The Kootenay Pass is currently closed for avalanche control — it is expected to reopen between 7 and 10 p.m. PT.