Greater Victoria snowfall leads to choppy road conditions and further risk for the homeless

Greater Victoria snowfall leads to choppy road conditions and further risk for the homeless

Flurries of snow continued to come down fast and steady in Greater Victoria on Sunday as a snowfall warning issued by Environment Canada said the region would likely see 5 to 10 cm throughout the day.

The consistent onslaught made it tough for Victoria City crews to keep up with snow clearing efforts, having to postpone the plowing of side streets to prioritize the main roads.

The region saw multiple accidents on Saturday, a trend that continued Sunday afternoon with a collision at the intersection of Pandora Street and Begbie street that sent one person to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

“This crash is still under investigation, but the initial investigation indicates that poor road conditions may have been a contributing factor,” said Victoria Police spokesperson Bowen Osoko.

Osoko says the department has responded to 21 traffic calls of various types since the snow started falling on Friday night, ranging from crashes to general traffic calls.

It’s not just traffic mayhem for Victoria, Saanich Police says there was a slight uptick in motor vehicle crashes this weekend, with officers responding to 11 different collisions.

RELATED: Saanich PD respond to 11 vehicle collisions over snow weekend

Emcon, the company responsible for clearing stretches of highway on the South Island has been hard at work since the flurries began Friday night.

“We have two shifts going on, each shift I have 10 crews working 12-hour shifts and it’s been none stop,” said Emcon supervisor Darryl Slater.

Slater says his crews have been able to keep up with the constant snowfall, but with the snow likely to soon turn to rain, they’ll be facing the even more difficult challenge of ice.

“We’re going to be at this for the next three days cleaning up the side roads and all the snow-packed against the barriers, when it melts during the day then at night it freezes, and that’s where we’ll have troubles,” Slater said.

For those without homes, the road conditions are the least of their worries.

Shea Smith, who camped at various city parks for the last three years, says with so many more people forced outside due to the pandemic this year, he’s seeing many struggle in these conditions.

“I’ve been doing this for three years now but I guess I’m used to it. For the people that aren’t used to it, it can be life-threatening, people are cold and wet out there,” said Smith.

With shelters only running at half capacity, there are no open beds to take in those suffering out in the cold.

Our Place representative Grant McKenzie says they’re doing what they can to help people stay warm with extra clothes and heating areas, but they’ve already seen several people come in with frostbite.

Mackenzie says in these conditions, people will do whatever they have to to stay warm, which can often be dangerous.

“Our biggest concern I think when we have weather like this is people using unsafe heating elements in their tents, that’s always a concern because when people are cold, they’ll do virtually anything to stay warm,” said McKenzie.

In the last month alone, Victoria has seen two fires started in tents.

The City of Victoria and the Province have promised that everyone will have indoor shelter by March 31, but by then, the snow will be long gone.

READ MORE: Clearing of residential streets in Victoria postponed as snow continues to fall

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