British Columbia·Video

Drivers should stay off southern B.C. roads unless it's an 'emergency,' province warns

Drivers are being warned of "treacherous" travel conditions on B.C.'s South Coast on Friday as a winter storm rolls into the region. 

Conditions expected to be treacherous Thursday night through Saturday as ice covers roadways

Two cars follow each other, headlights on in the dark as snow falls
Cars are pictured after a heavy snowfall in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The province is strongly advising against any form of travel throughout much of B.C., beginning Thursday night, through Saturday, with freezing rain set to coat coastal and southern Interior highways in ice, creating treacherous driving conditions. 

Environment Canada is predicting up to 30 centimetres of heavy snow, as well as ice pellets and freezing rain on the South Coast, Vancouver Island and southern Interior over the next two days, along with strong winds and extreme cold temperatures. Freezing rain could last up to 36 hours in the Fraser Valley, according to the province. 

Up to 80 millimetres of rain could also fall, according to the forecast.

"I know people have plans for the holidays. They want to spend time with family, friends and loved ones," Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said during a news conference on Thursday. 

"But this is a significant weather event."

WATCH | B.C. Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma on what to expect:

'Travel only if necessary': B.C. emergency management minister

3 months ago
Duration 0:50
Bowinn Ma advises drivers in the Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island to stay off the roads as heavy snow followed by freezing rain will cause dangerous conditions.

Fleming said crews are preparing to help keep the roads clear, but switching from plowing snow to managing rain and ice will be tricky. He said crews will be plowing roads around the clock.

Mainroad, the maintenance company in charge of clearing provincial highways throughout the Lower Mainland, said roads are expected to become snow-covered on Thursday evening and icy on Friday.

Highways of greatest concern, according to the Ministry of Transportation, are:

  • The Malahat Highway.
  • Highway 4.
  • Coquihalla Highway.
  • Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon.
  • Highway 3.

The Ministry of Transportation says it is prepared to close highways if necessary.

Mainroad is advising those who do have to hit the road to check DriveBC for the latest on highway conditions. Mainroad also suggests ensuring your vehicle has snow tires, a full tank of gas or a full charge for EVs and an emergency kit. 

"Winter weather is unpredictable — be prepared for rapidly changing conditions," Mainroad said in a statement. 

Mainroad says it continues to receive a supply of de-icing salt and encourages the public to use salt responsibly to ensure availability.

As the region warms back up, Mainroad said there will be an "extreme" risk of flooding and potholes. Minister of Emergency Management Bowinn Ma says the province is prepared to respond to flooding if needed.

B.C. Hydro is also warning that freezing rain could cause power outages on Vancouver Island and in the Fraser Valley. 

Starting at 11:30 p.m. PT on Thursday, the province says it will be "strictly" enforcing chain-up rules for commercial vehicles travelling Highway 1 over the Malahat on Vancouver Island. 

Fleming said the province is co-ordinating with municipal governments to ensure roads that connect to provincial highways are cleared.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Mainroad was responsible for plowing provincial highways in B.C. In fact, it is responsible for plowing provincial highways in the Lower Mainland.
    Dec 22, 2022 4:46 PM PT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Dickson is a journalist in Vancouver, B.C. Email her at courtney.dickson@cbc.ca with story tips.

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