British Columbia

The second Metro Vancouver snowstorm: what you need to know

Wondering how Friday's expected snowstorm might affect you? Here's a quick primer.

How the storm might affect airports, roads and bridges — and when it is likely to end

How Vancouver looked after the first snowfall on Dec. 5, 2016. (Brent Nichols)

We know: by now you're probably tired of stories about Metro Vancouver dealing with a few inches of snow (doubly so if you live in the rest of Canada).

But a second snowstorm expected to hit on Friday could be the biggest the region has seen this decade, so it's best to prepare. 

Here's how government and transportation officials are preparing.

First off, how likely is a big snowfall?

Environment Canada has issued a warning that 10 to 20 centimetres is expected for Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky Region, the Fraser Valley, and virtually all of Vancouver Island.

The snow is expected to begin sometime after 1 a.m. Friday, continuing until the mid-morning and will be accompanied by strong winds. 

There will be a possible break after that before picking up in the afternoon — but at that point, the snow will likely turn to rain at lower elevations (most of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, and the southwest Fraser Valley).

The forecast for Metro Vancouver over the next 24 hours.

"This is still looking like a high-impact, even for much of the South Coast, but snowfall totals in the end will depend greatly on elevation," said CBC Meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

"If you live on the North Shore or inland or at higher elevations, there's still a good chance this will even continue as snow for all of Friday."

Will main bridges be closed?

B.C.'s transportation minister isn't ruling out shutting down the Alex Fraser Bridge and several lanes on the Port Mann, if the storm is as bad as expected.

"We're going to do everything we can to mitigate any risk related to closures. But if, in the professional opinion of the safety engineers who will be on site at the bridges, they believe a closure [is warranted] of some or all lanes for period of times, then we will move forward," said Todd Stone.

Dean Sanders' windshield was smashed while driving on the Alex Fraser Bridge on Dec. 5, 2016. (Dean Sanders)

ICBC is investigating 80 claims of damaged windshields and vehicles from crossing the two bridges in Monday's storm. Since then, the province has increased de-icing of the Alex Fraser bridge and reloaded all of the cables on the Port Mann bridge to limit icy build-up.

YVR preparations

When snow and ice do hit, staff at Vancouver International Airport have to de-ice planes, salt the tarmacs and clear off the runways.

Another step that can lead to delayed flights is making sure there is no frost on the planes.

As snow fell at Vancouver International Airport on Monday morning a few minor delays were reported.

"Your aircraft will leave the gate on time and then at the pilot's discretion, the pilot may want the aircraft de-iced.  On a smaller aircraft that's ten minutes, on a larger aircraft that can be upwards of about 14 minutes," said  Steve Hankinson, YVR's vice-president of operations.

YVR says it will have staff who are part of snow operations staying in hotels tonight to make sure they are at the airport Friday to help keep things moving. The status of arriving and departing flights can be checked on their website. 

Time off school or work?

School boards in the region have said they will announce any closures of schools by 7 a.m. Friday and are encouraging the public to check their respective websites regularly for updates in the morning.

As for employees, if you're not in a union, the rules are simple: if you don't go to work, you don't get paid. 

But if you are in a union — which is the case with approximately 30 per cent of employees in B.C. — there are different provisions, depending on the employer. For example, Provincial Health Services Authority employees can't take a sick day but can take annual leave or banked overtime. 

City says call 311 to report issues

Jerry Dobrovolny, general manager of engineering services with the City of Vancouver, says the city will deploy anywhere from 14 to 42 pieces of equipment to deal with the coming storm and laid down 18 tonnes of salt and 60,000 litres of brine Wednesday night alone.

He says the first priority is busy arterial streets, but anyone who sees an unsafe side street is encouraged to call 311.

Failing to clear the snow on the sidewalk outside your property can be $250 per offence in the City of Vancouver. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Traffic and parking rules are still to be followed, as are rules requiring residents to shovel their front walkways.

"If people aren't able to do it, we're hoping they'll work with others," Dobrovolny told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn. "We have a snow angels program where people can shovel walks for people who aren't physically able to."

And with salt being a hot commodity in stores these days, Dobrovolny says the city is considering making some of their 1,500 tonnes available for residents, but also says the need isn't there yet.

With files from On the Coast and Anita Bathe

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