British Columbia

Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley prepping for snow, 'bitterly cold' winds

The Fraser Valley could see about five centimetres of snow accumlate beginning Friday. Meanwhile, parts of Vancouver Island could see up to 25 centimetres fall if snowsqualls pick up.

Emergency shelters open across southern B.C. and travellers urged to use caution

A Vancouver cold weather shelter. Emergency shelters are open across southern B.C. to keep homeless people safe in the freezing temperatures. (Megan Batchelor/CBC News)

Large swathes of B.C. could be hit with heavy snowfall beginning Friday morning as arctic air begins to blow.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for much of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, including Howe Sound-Whistler, the Fraser Valley, Greater Victoria and the southern Gulf Islands.

"These areas may experience possible damaging winds, bitterly cold wind chill values and reduced visibilities in blowing snow," the weather service wrote in a statement.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said the snow is expected to start to fall steadily at around 5 a.m. PT on Friday and ease later that evening.

The Fraser Valley could see up to five centimetres and one to four centimetres may fall in Metro Vancouver. 

Snowsqualls — snow fallling in sudden, heavy gusts — may develop on eastern Vancouver Island and potentially push the accumulation to as high as 25 centimetres.

Shelters open

Victoria has its extreme weather protocol in place, a program that increases the number of shelter beds available from faith groups, non-profit organizations and emergency services when inclement weather is expected or temperatures dip below freezing.

Regional coordinator Jen Wilde said there are 450 shelter beds available across the region.

So far, they have been able to provide space to everyone who has come to them.

"We're definitely seeing people showing up and utilizing them but we're not maxing out at this point," Wilde said.

In Vancouver, additional shelter space and warming centres will be open until Tuesday, Feb. 11. Anyone sleeping outside will be encouraged to come indoors.

Transit, Ferries

On the roads and ferries, travellers are being urged to take precautions.

B.C. Transit spokesperson Jonathan Dyck said its bus drivers will drive according to the conditions and it is possible morning commutes will be disrupted Friday.

"Routes might be canceled, delayed or detoured as appropriate," Dyck said. "We ... do everything we can to keep to schedule and keep on route, but the road conditions dictate what we can do."

TransLink in Metro Vancouver says it is salting and sanding bus loops and SkyTrain stations, but advises customers to use caution in the area and dress warmly in anticipation of potential delays.

BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said its vessels are expected to be unaffected by the weather, but salting and snow plowing of the terminals could cause delays. She advised passengers to give themselves a little extra time if taking a ferry.

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