British Columbia

Snow sticking in Metro Vancouver: what to know in the days ahead

With Metro Vancouver facing days of below-freezing temperatures, here's what you need to know.

Increased crashes the next few days and flooding later on in the week are possibilities

The snow was sticking to the roads and sidewalks in downtown Vancouver on Monday morning. (Saida Ouchaou/Radio Canada)

Monday was the snowiest day in Metro Vancouver in nearly three years, causing school closures, slush bombs on bridges, and the predictable combination of amazement and anxiety in suddenly having to contend with Canada's national climate.   

But unlike most times the region is graced with inches of snow, it won't be a one-day event.

"Temperatures will now drop dramatically across the south coast. We weren't actually in the arctic air through the day, that's filtering down the south coast [now]," said CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

"Whatever snow is on the ground right now will likely stick for the next couple of days, even though skies will clear up overnight."

Here are some things to keep in mind.

Slippery roads

Wagstaffe says that freezing temperatures overnight will create slick conditions for drivers.

"When you've got these clear blue skies, people think the roads are generally dry, because you haven't had fresh snowfall. But in the early morning hours, especially with a windchill, roads can become slippery, even if you don't think there's fresh precipitation," she said.

The snow was making for treacherous driving conditions in East Vancouver on Monday morning. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

The City of Vancouver used 33 salters in total on Monday to clear all major routes and priority hills. General manager of engineering Jerry Dobrovolny is encouraging people to continue planning ahead for their commutes. 

"If they can't walk or take transit, which are two very good alternatives... then take lots of extra time, because it takes longer to get in," he said. 

Transit delays?

TransLink spokesperson Anne Drennan says crews are keeping a close eye on the bus loops, particularly those on hills.

"[We're] have transit supervisors on during the night. They will assess the inclines or hilly areas to see whether there's going to be a major ice issue first thing in the morning," said Drennan.

"We'll send our first set of buses out to see how they do, and if there are issues ... then we may consider re-routing some of those buses."

De-icing trains were also sent out overnight to maintain the tracks and switches on SkyTrain lines.

The snow has made for treacherous driving conditions, particularly for buses in Metro Vancouver. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

Data on accidents mixed

While Monday's snow storm may have caused traffic mayhem on streets, initial indications are it didn't create chaos in claim centres. 

ICBC spokesman Sam Corea says the numbers up to 3:30 p.m. aren't bad. 

"We've handled almost 3,500 claims and that compares to just under 3,200 claims for the same time last year — so that is a 10 per cent increase in calls."

However, the British Columbia Automobile Association said that in Metro Vancouver, calls for assistance doubled yesterday as the temperature dipped.

Incidentally, they released a survey showing that many people don't prepare for driving in such conditions. 

"Seventy-one per cent of drivers who took our survey said they were not going to prepare for winter driving because it just doesn't snow enough where they live," said BCAA spokesperson Neila Melanio. 

"What our survey revealed is that many B.C. drivers, though we do have many good drivers ... underestimate the weather conditions and the impact on their driving."

Stretched shelters

Emergency cold weather shelters have opened their doors wider than usual to combat the higher demand for their services.

"This is not a safe time for people to be on the streets especially here on the west coast where it's a very wet damp cold. Once you get cold if you're on the street it's almost impossible to get dry again, to get warm," said Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission.

It opened up an additional 20 beds on Monday, part of an estimated 150 emergency response beds in operation throughout the city.

"The crushing reality is there are still hundreds on the street just in Vancouver who won't have a space available. So we're trying to get creative, so over the past few weeks we've been handing out [survival gear] specifically for people who are living on the streets, who aren't living in shelters," said Hunka. 

Good news for some

​One group happy with all the snow  falling?


"This amount of snow is unheard of for this time of year. It's great," said Joffrey Koeman, director of sales and marketing for Cypress Mountain.

Cypress, Grouse and Seymour all opened for skiing and snowboarding in the last two weeks, making the start of the season a busy one for the industry.

"When it's snowing in Vancouver ... it's still snowing at Mount Seymour, but the snow is a much finer powder like an Interior snow, so we have this wonderful powder at the moment," said Mount Seymour marketing director Simon Whitehead.

Snow — and then rain — expected to appear on Thursday

While snow-related closures are unlikely in the next two days because of the clear weather, another snowstorm is expected sometime on Thursday before temperatures quickly warm up.

That could create commuting chaos even worse than Monday. 

"It's coming with a Pacific system that will bring snow turning over to rain," warns Wagstaffe.

"We could be talking about flooding, but first we have to get through a major snowfall event that might be bigger than the one we just had."

With files from Deborah Goble and Brenna Rose