Winter weather snarls Island travel plans just before Christmas

Snowplows at the airport were kept busy on Dec. 23, 2022.

If it wasn’t snow, many Vancouver Islanders woke up instead to a layer of frozen ice Friday morning. The freezing rain caused numerous cancellations across the Island, including Victoria’s International Airport

One family told CHEK News they would not be able to make it home to see their family.

A year after many had their holiday plans cancelled by COVID, now some are facing a Christmas cancelled by mother nature.

“I was excited to go see my family before I’m graduating before leaving for university,” a young traveller whose flight was cancelled told CHEK News.

The arrivals area at Victoria’s airport was eerily quiet for what was projected to be the biggest travel day of the year.

“We have our main runway open and it’s been open since the start of the weather event Monday night and Tuesday,” said Rod Hunchak, director of business development and community relations at Victoria’s International Airport.

But carriers like West Jet, Air Canada, and Pacific Coastal made the pre-emptive call to cancel or delay flights for most of Friday.

“Luckily my layovers are pretty long so even if there are delays it won’t be too bad. Just trying to get home before Christmas,” said one hopeful traveller who was trying to get to family in Europe.

The morning commute to both the airport and the ferries consisted of full winter conditions: bad visibility and snowpack on the Pat Bay highway. The concern on the roads caused morning cancellations at Swartz Bay, but spirits among travellers remained high.

“We decided yesterday morning, there’s no plan. We may or may not get somewhere, but we just take it as it goes,” said one couple.

As the road conditions improved and it became apparent Greater Victoria had seemed to swerve much of the freezing rain, sailings at Swartz Bay started back up at 11 a.m.

“Now that the road conditions are improving, we have resumed service on all of our routes and we’re trying to process our customers as quickly and safely as possible,” said Deborah Marshall, spokesperson for BC Ferries.

Meteorologists say the worst of the storm is behind the South Island.

“Definitely it’s slowly moderating, and were expecting that trend to continue into the evening tonight,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Brian Proctor.

“The Malahat is a real questionable one. Often we see cold air get trapped in the Saanich Inlet. It takes a little bit longer to warm up and get the cold are out of there. It may be a bit of a problem spot for people trying to get out and about during the overnight period.”

The news of more moderate weather a positive one, but for Victoria airport, they’re already looking to a new set of challenges.

“We have four days of cancellations of folks who still want to travel and get out,” said Hunchak. “So we might see some busy days when normally we wouldn’t.”

Hunchak says crews were clearing additional parking spaces at the airport today, but warns spaces are quickly filling up and suggests finding alternative means to get to the airport if possible.

Meteorologists say Vancouver Island is looking towards a big thaw.

“In general terms as we move through the day on Christmas Eve, things are going to get better across the Island,” said Proctor.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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