British Columbia

From record-setting snowfall to freezing rain, Chilliwack braces for 'a storm to remember'

Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz is warning residents to stay home from work if conditions worsen.

Chilliwack's mayor is warning residents to stay home from work if conditions continue to worsen

This was the scene in Chilliwack during a 2014 winter storm. This year's snowfall has set records in the Fraser Valley. (Bal Brach/CBC)

Chilliwack, B.C. has seen about as much snow in the past four days as it usually receives in a typical year, and the city is warning even more snow is expected overnight. 

77 centimetres of snow fall have fallen in the city since ​Sunday. Forecasters say to expect more snow as well as some freezing rain in the early hours of Thursday.

"We are bracing for what we have been told will be a storm to remember," said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz. "We really are at the mercy of the elements."

Gaetz described the city's arterial roads and hillsides as being in "good shape" and said most, but not all, residential neighbourhoods have been plowed.

"I feel really badly about that, we'll be looking at our budget again next year of course, to make sure we can get to the residential areas sooner," said Gaetz.

The city is reminding  residents to prepare for tough conditions in the coming days, and Gaetz says that includes staying home from work if roads become impassable.

"We've been warning residents, asking people to get ready. Make sure you have an emergency kit ready to go, make sure you have enough groceries. If the roads become impassable due to freezing rain then we want you to be safe and stay home."

Chilliwack's schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday. They reopened on Wednesday, but without school bus services.

Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz said conditions have been so bad that snow plows have been dispatched to clear the way for ambulances. (David Horemans/CBC)

The city has two 35-person teams working around the clock as well as eight contractors they've hired to assist.

"We simply can't keep up," said Gaetz, "People are struggling, especially when people get to the ends of their streets and there are huge walls of snow."

The city has opened a warming centre at the United Church and is also providing free sandbags to residents along with a reminder to keep their storm drains clear. 

Despite the preparations, the conditions have managed to stall some essential services. The mayor said that in some cases, snow plows were deployed to lead the way for ambulances.

"I've lived in Chilliwack pretty well all my life," said Gaetz. "And I can tell you honestly I've never seen anything like this."