British Columbia

Relentless winter storm prompts renewed warnings for southern B.C. highways

Mountain passes of southern B.C.'s arterial highways remain under winter storm warnings Tuesday as an unrelenting blitz of snowy, rainy and icy weather continues.

Coquihalla to close Wednesday for avalanche control. Warnings in effect for highways 1, 3, 5 and 99

Highway maintenance workers clear snow from the Nicola, B.C., area on Dec. 30, 2019. The southern quarter of the province has been gripped by winter storms for a week, with further warnings in effect Tuesday. (Yellowhead Road & Bridge Nicola/Twitter)

Arterial highways connecting regions across southern B.C. remain under winter storm warnings Tuesday as an unrelenting, deadly blitz of snowy, rainy and icy weather continues.

DriveBC said the Coquihalla, linking Hope and Merritt, B.C., will be closed between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday for planned avalanche control after heavy snowfall in recent weeks.

Environment Canada has posted fresh weather warnings from the east coast of Vancouver Island all the way to the Elk Valley in the southeastern corner of the province. Winter storm warnings are calling for an additional 10 centimetres of snow along the Coquihalla and Trans-Canada highways, as well as Highway 3 and the Sea-to-Sky corridor of Highway 99.

Kootenay Pass, a portion of Highway 3 between Salmo and Creston, has been shut down in both directions due to high avalanche risk. Drive BC said it's expected to reopen Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Highway 1 is closed in both directions 20 kilometres west of Golden until at least 8 p.m. Tuesday after a fatal crash between two passenger vehicles and two commercial vehicles mid-afternoon.  

Forecasters said conditions on the Coquihalla and Highway 3 were optimal for freezing rain late Tuesday morning.

Go behind the scenes with the avalanche technicians who keep drivers travelling through mountain passes safe. 5:41


The weather is not expected to relent until early Wednesday. A parade of wintry weather has plagued B.C. since the New Year, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people and spurring deadly avalanches.

Robb Anderson, senior manager for the avalanche and weather programs for the Ministry of Transportation, said crews have been working around the clock to get the roads cleared and safe.

A vehicle incident has closed Hwy 1 north of Golden in both directions. Heavy snow is falling in the area. (DriveBC)

"We're seeing some unprecedented conditions right now. It's quite volatile out there," he said.

There wasn't a lot of snow at the beginning of winter, but that's changed.

"We've caught right up and in some places in the province we're seeing record snowfall amounts," said Anderson.

The Revelstoke area is getting 170 per cent the of the normal snowfall for this time of year, he added.

"We're at or above average now for not only snowfall, but for closures."

There are about 30 avalanche technicians working in eight locations across the province right now.

Most avalanches that have occurred have been controlled or the highway was closed before they effected the road, except for a few small ones, said Anderson. 

"We may see more closures here going into the next day or two for sure."

1 killed in Hwy 1 crash

The highway warnings and road closures come hours after a man was killed in a crash on Highway 1 north of Hope, B.C.

First responders were called to a crash near American Creek around 2:40 p.m. PT Monday. A car driving north had crossed into southbound lanes and collided with an oncoming tanker truck, according to RCMP.

The driver of the car, a man in his 70s, died at the scene. The driver of the tanker was hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries.

The highway was closed for more than 12 hours as police gathered evidence and HAZMAT teams cleaned oil spilled from the tanker in the collision. It reopened early Tuesday.

An RCMP statement said it was snowing and slushy on the highway at the time of the crash. Impairment is not being considered as a factor.

Drivers are asked to consider postponing travel plans on mountain highways Tuesday until conditions improve.

Nearer the coast, rainfall warnings are up for parts of Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Howe Sound with up to 90 millimetres of rain in the forecast. The weather agency said there is a risk of localized flooding in low-lying areas.



With files from Tom Popyk


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