British Columbia

Police say 'stay home, stay warm' as drivers warned of winter conditions on roads across B.C.

British Columbians are being advised to drive with extra caution — or not travel at all — as the province's highways were hit by snowy and icy weather conditions over the Christmas weekend.

British Columbians advised to drive with caution, as province's highways hit by snowy weather

Snow removal and de-icing crews are seen at work on the runways at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on Dec. 25, 2021, amidst unusually cold temperatures from an Arctic outflow. (Vancouver International Airport (YVR)/Twitter)

British Columbians are being advised to drive with extra caution — or not travel at all — as the province's highways were hit by snowy and icy weather conditions over the Christmas weekend.

On southern Vancouver Island, DriveBC issued road warnings for four Greater Victoria communities, and Saanich police described local road conditions as "deteriorating."

"We are seeing increased conditions of snow and ice building up on each other," said Const. Spencer Loverock of the Saanich Police Department. "That's causing conditions to worsen.

"We're advising drivers to stay home, stay warm, and if they do need to drive, make sure it's for necessary situations."

Loverock reminded drivers to ensure they have tires designed for snow and ice if they're going to be driving in the current conditions. He also urged motorists to "leave plenty of room" between vehicles. 

Crashes and collisions occurred on highways across B.C. on Sunday, but traffic continued moving with reduced lanes in most cases. Black ice, which can be invisible to motorists, is of particular danger this weekend, according to DriveBC.

"Travel is not recommended unless absolutely necessary," the provincial agency said in its winter condition warnings issued for multiple routes across B.C. on Sunday.

Environment Canada issued "extreme cold" statements for more than 20 communities across the province amid an Arctic outflow that has caused temperatures to plummet far below average for this time of year.

DriveBC issued winter travel advisories urging drivers to avoid unnecessary trips on highways 1, 14, 17 and 18 on Vancouver Island, as well as Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton.

A fallen tree and downed electric lines in the Kootenays shut down Highway 31A near Kaslo on Sunday afternoon, DriveBC said.

Vancouver International Airport, meanwhile, said the cold weather conditions forced it to temporarily shut down its COVID-19 testing facility. 

"Due to hazardous weather conditions, operations at the COVID-19 testing site at YVR airport have been temporarily suspended," the airport said in a tweet. "To ensure the safety of staff and clients, incoming traffic will be temporarily redirected to alternate locations, including testing sites at UBC and ICBC."

As of 2 p.m. Sunday, out of 35 flights scheduled to depart from YVR, eight were delayed. Air Canada said on its website that "flights may be impacted by forecasted snow" in Vancouver and Kelowna. 

Meanwhile, WestJet told its B.C. customers the "winter storm system ... may cause delays or cancellations."

A YVR airport spokesperson told CBC News it is fully prepared to handle snow and ice on its runways, and in fact started planning for potential extreme winter conditions last August.

"It does complicate matters when it happens to fall on Christmas and [statutory] holidays, in terms of staff," Andy Margolis, vice-president of YVR's airport capacity and systems design, said Friday. 

B.C. Ferries sailings were mostly on time Sunday, however two ships travelling between Nanaimo and West Vancouver were running 30 to 50 minutes late as of 2 p.m. Sunday, because crews needed extra time to clear snow from the decks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David P. Ball

@davidpball

David P. Ball is a CBC News reporter in Vancouver. Send story tips or ideas to david.ball@cbc.ca, or find him on Twitter @davidpball.

With files from Susana da Silva

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