‘First true test of winter’: Snow and high winds hit Vancouver Island Saturday

'First true test of winter': Snow and high winds hit Vancouver Island Saturday
Snow is pictured near Port Alberni on Dec. 9, 2023.

Drivers skidded and slid out of control on Highway 4 to Port Alberni Saturday, as fast falling snow mixed with steep elevation caught many off guard.

Mainroad snow plow operator Mike Backie said driving conditions reduced quickly on “the hump” as cars struggled to get up hill.

“I think it’s just improper tires and they don’t really know how to drive to conditions. They’re just foot to the floor, skidding out, and it makes it icier. It makes it harder,” Backie told CHEK News in Port Alberni.

“All of our weather is saying up to 2 cm (of snowfall) and we got more than that, so we’re doing the best we can with what we’re dealing with,” he said.

Backie urged people to stay home, as he headed out to clear roads.

“Stay home, if you don’t have to go over the hump right now, don’t. Stay home,” he said.

Messy weather across the Island

Weather conditions changed quickly Saturday morning from rain to heavy snow on the Mid-Island, delivering the first significant snowfall of the season for Highway 4’s hump.

This strong frontal system was forecast to deliver the most snow to Inland Vancouver Island, particularly in Port Alberni, but snow also accumulated in Nanaimo.

Meantime, heavy winds were forecast to gust up to 90 km/hour around Greater Victoria, causing BC Ferries to cancel four sailings between Victoria and Vancouver, and another four sailings between Nanaimo and Vancouver Saturday. Harbour Air also cancelled several flights due to low visibility.

In Oak Bay, heavy winds are suspected of pushing power lines onto a tree branch, throwing 950 customers into the dark.

“Yes, our first true test of winter,” said Backie. “If you can’t drive the conditions, stay home. It’s not great out there.”

The snow was expected to turn over to rain when temperatures were forecast to rapidly rise Saturday night. More rain is forecast for the week ahead.

SEE ALSO: Wind warning issued for Greater Victoria, snow advisories still in effect for other parts of Island

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