B.C. winter storm brings snow, highway closures and ferry cancellations

The first day of winter brought snow to many parts of B.C. on Monday, including along the South Coast where snowfall and high winds led to power outages and ferry cancellations.

In the province’s Interior, snow began accumulating Monday morning, with some highways closed due to the weather.

Environment Canada expanded a snowfall warning to include Metro Vancouver after issuing an earlier alert for the southern Interior.

The weather agency predicted up to five centimetres of snow for the Lower Mainland Monday and forecast up to 20 centimetres for the Interior of the province, with even more for residents in the Kootenays and mountain communities.

“I’ve been doing this work in B.C. for 30 years and this is a weird weather system,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist.

Lundquist says most Interior blizzards are driven by cold northern Arctic air, but that an unusual westerly front has created  odd conditions.

“It was a record-breaking warm day yesterday, followed up by this ridiculous snow. Very unusual — never seen this,” he said.

Temperatures hit 10.5 C in Kelowna on Sunday and some northern communities also reported above average temperatures over the weekend.

DriveBC is issuing travel advisories for most major passes including the Coquihalla under Environment Canada’s expanding snowfall warnings for the province. (CBC)

Highways closed

DriveBC issued travel advisories for most major passes, including the Coquihalla.

Early Monday afternoon, officials closed the Coquihalla in both directions as a result of multiple incidents.

The Trans Canada near Golden, and Highway 97 near Pine Pass were closed as well for avalanche control.

Kelowna RCMP have reported accidents throughout the Central Okanagan, after early morning rain turned to snow. 

“[We’re] asking drivers to be aware that the roads are very icy and they need to slow down,” said Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy.

Vehicles damaged by snow on Port Mann Bridge

The Ministry of Transportation confirmed that it had reports of two vehicles being damaged by falling snow on the Port Mann Bridge — one in each direction.

A ministry spokesperson said that bridge and the Alex Fraser Bridge are being carefully monitored, and ‘cable collars’ have been used to shed accumulated snow from the bridge cables.

In Metro Vancouver, Translink said on Monday it was prepared for the season’s first snow with various changes to how it operates buses and SkyTrain service.

The transit authority said “bus socks,” which give tires better traction, will be available for routes travelling up Burnaby Mountain and on the North Shore.

The trolley-bus cables — all 300 kilometres of them — will be sprayed by de-icing trucks when there’s a risk of frost or ice.

Ferry sailings cancelled

BC Ferries announced Monday afternoon that sailings across Georgia Strait would be suspended — not due to snowfall, but as a result of high winds. The service is limited to essential travel due to COVID-19 measures.

The cancelled routes include:

  • Tsawwassen to the Southern Gulf Islands
  • Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (after the 5 p.m. sailing)
  • Tsawwassen to Duke Point (after the 5:45 p.m. sailing)
  • Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay (after the 6:35 p.m. sailing)

Routes travelling to the mainland were scheduled to end mid afternoon.

Power outages

BC Hydro crews were busy restoring power for hundreds of customers, with dozens of outages across the province.

The utility reported more than 60,000 customers without power, with the largest impact found in the southern parts of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland-Sunshine Coast region.

Despite the snowfall warning, Environment Canada is not making any forecasts yet for a white Christmas in Metro Vancouver.

There is still time for snow to melt before the big day, if temperatures warm as predicted.

“If we can get through the next 24 hours, then we’ll have a white Christmas.” said Lundquist. 

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