British Columbia

New records broken as extreme cold and snowfall warnings persist across B.C. Interior and north

Schools are open in most of the B.C. Interior, but many bus runs have been cancelled as frigid temperatures set new records throughout the region.

7 spots in the province shattered records, hitting new lows for Jan. 15

A city crew worker breaks up ice covering a storm drain along 6th Avenue in downtown Prince George in -43 C cold on Jan. 15. A pair of water main breaks in the city caused hazardous driving conditions as thick steam lifted off the ice. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Schools remained open across most of B.C.'s Interior and north, but many bus runs were cancelled throughout the regions as temperatures dipped to new record lows.

According to Environment Canada, seven spots in the province hit record-breaking extremes for Jan. 15, including Bella Bella at –12.8 C, Burns Lake at –44.1 C, Clinton at –33.3 C, Prince George at –44.4 C, Puntzi Mountain at –48.8 C, Quesnel at -41.9 C and Tatlayoko Lake at –35.4 C.

The last time Quesnel reached –40 C was in 1991, however temperatures are expected to gradually rise later this week. 

In the areas of Bulkley Valley, Muncho Lake Park, Fort Nelson and 100 Mile, the extreme cold warnings were lifted around 4 p.m. PT.

In the meantime, in Prince George, crews worked to repair water main breaks today in dangerously cold conditions.

City spokesperson Mike Kellett said the downtown break, at Sixth Avenue and Winnipeg Street appears to be related to the cold weather due to the age of the utility installed in 1956.

Kellett said a second break in the Southridge neighbourhood of College Heights appears to be unrelated to the cold, but the frigid temperatures are making it difficult for crews to repair the line and restore service and some people may be without water until late Thursday when the temperature is expected to rise. 

WATCH: City crews and locals in Prince George battle record-breaking cold weather Wednesday 

Frigid cold causes problems for city crews in Prince George

3 years ago
Duration 0:23
Temperatures in Prince George, B.C. plunged below -40 Wednesday, causing problems for city crew. Water main breaks flooded streets downtown and in College Heights, and snow clearing operations were canceled over fears the deep freeze could damage equipment.

Environment Canada says bitterly cold Arctic air will remain across most of the central and northern Interior and parts of the southern Interior, with wind chill values up to –40 C.

On the central and north coasts there is a freezing spray warning and Arctic outflow warning in effect, with severely cold and hurricane force winds expected.

The City of Prince George announced they are suspending snow and ice operations for 24 hours on Wednesday due to concerns over the extreme cold damaging equipment. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Freezing spray occurs when a combination of below freezing temperatures and strong winds cause wind-generated spray to freeze and accumulate on marine infrastructure near the water.

Prince George also has an air quality statement in effect. Environment Canada says that stagnant winter conditions are creating higher pollution levels.

The city announced it is suspending snow and ice operations for the next 24 hours, because the extreme cold could damage equipment. 

Kamloops Fire and Rescue is warning people that while the ice may be thick on some parts of the Thompson River, the current can cause thinner ice to break up quickly and move. (Doug Herbert/CBC)

Kamloops Fire and Rescue is warning people to be careful around river ice right now. In some areas of the north and south Thompson Rivers the ice is thick, but in others, the current creates very thin ice causing it to break up quickly.

Jamie Chase with the fire department's ice rescue team, said ice conditions are exceptionally hazardous right now and is cautioning dog owners to be especially careful while walking near the river. 

Buses cancelled but schools open

WorkSafeBC has issued a reminder about the risks of cold-weather work, warning that plunging temperatures can lead to frostbite, hypothermia and even death if people remain outside too long.

For that reason, several school districts in northern and central B.C have opted to cancel school buses so students aren't left waiting outside. 

"It's pretty severe," said Kathy Whalen, the supervisor of transportation for School District 54 in the Bulkley Valley, where buses have been cancelled for the past few days.

But schools remain open for the same reason, ensuring students won't be left outside in dangerously cold conditions.

The City of Prince George hit a low of -44 C Wednesday morning. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Parents are advised to check with their local district every morning to monitor changing conditions and whether the buses in their area are still running.

"Normally I don't make a decision until the morning of, because things can change," Whalen said.


Visibility is expected to be be limited on the Coquihalla Highway, the Okanagan Connector and Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon. Heavy snow is expected to continue into Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. 

Most of the snowfall on the Coquihalla is expected between Merritt and Hope. 

Environment Canada is warning that heavy snowfall is expected Wednesday evening for Highway 3, from the Paulson Summit to the Kootenay Pass, continuing into Thursday morning. About 30 to 40 centimetres of snow is expected. 

All sailings for the McLure Ferry north of Kamloops remain cancelled, as well as sailings for the Little Fort Ferry. 

Check Drive BC for the latest road conditions.

Mail delays

Canada Post says mail delivery is suspended Wednesday because of weather conditions in the Greater Vancouver Area, Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island regions.

The rest of the province may experience delays as well.

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With files from Pamela McCall, Betry Trumpener and Doug Herbert


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