Winter storm warning: Expect up to 25cm of snow to fall on Vancouver Island

Winter storm warning: Expect up to 25cm of snow to fall on Vancouver Island
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Another winter storm with heavy snow and extreme cold is set to blanket almost every corner of British Columbia Wednesday night, including right across Vancouver Island.

Several centimetres of slushy snow snarled Tuesday afternoon’s rush hour across the south coast but that won’t compare with the 10 to 30 centimetres of snow Environment Canada says will blanket southern B.C. on Wednesday night before easing Thursday.

The weather office warns mountain passes across Vancouver Island and throughout southern B.C. could see up to 40 centimetres, especially along Interior sections of Highways 1 and 3.

In coastal areas, including Greater Victoria, Environment Canada is forecasting between 15 and 25 cm with threats of freezing rain over inland and east Vancouver Island as well as the Malahat highway.

The low-pressure system is expected to bring heavy snow by Wednesday evening, which will last through the night and turn to rain by Thursday morning.

Environment Canada warns that there is a risk of freezing rain for central and east Vancouver Island on Thursday morning as the weather transitions from the heavy snow.

“Rapidly accumulating snow could make travel difficult over some locations. Prepare for quickly changing and deteriorating travel conditions,” reads a statement from Environment Canada.

“Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become icy and slippery. If visibility is reduced while driving, slow down, watch for tail lights ahead and be prepared to stop.”

Over on the west coast of Vancouver Island, rain and wet snow is expected to hit in the afternoon, with the rain turning to snow, heavy at times, even near Tofino at sea level by this evening.

On Northern Vancouver Island, including Port Alice, Port Hardy and Port McNeill, snowfall could reach up to 30 cm and Environment Canada is suggesting that conditions could reach “hazardous” levels. On the North Island, strong winds will also give occasional blowing snow and cold wind chill values.

Behind the wheel of his snow clearing grader Wednesday, Brad Guthrie worked to get ahead of the approaching storm, still clearing and widening roads throughout the mid-island from the last big snow event as another unseasonal, huge snowfall moved in.

“It’s been busy. Every time we start to get ahead it snows or it rains and it’ll freeze on us and we gotta start all over,” said Guthrie, an operator with Mainroad Mid-Island Contracting.

Mainroad crews spent Wednesday salting, brining and clearing roads as the storm approached.

The storm was forecasted to arrive even as over 700 homes in the North Island communities of Tahsis and Zeballos struggled without power for a second day. Heavy wet snow brought down trees on transmission lines and, according to BC Hydro, have made accessing the area for repairs nearly impossible.

“Through ground patrols we determined there was a number of sites that need to be repaired. One structure was completely damaged and all this work is going to require a helicopter to get in there,” said Ted Olynyk, spokesperson for BC Hydro.

So the Zeballos Hall and Tahsis Rec Centre have both been opened up to help people weather the cold.

“We do have a warming centre open, so folks are going there and getting a meal and some hot drinks. Most people have generators, things like that and the commuity really just bands together when things like this happen and share resources,” said Zeballos’ Mayor Julie Colborne.

BC Hydro hoped to restore power by Friday, but with the new storm looming, said there could be more damage to come.

“We’ll have to see what that brings and what’s left in the morning, when the snow covers the south coast,” said Olynyk.

Haida Gwaii including Sandspit and Queen Charlotte Village and B.C.’s Central Coast including Bella Bella and Bella Coola are also under the heavy snowfall warning.

Additionally, Avalanche Canada says danger ratings on mountains across B.C. are moderate to considerable, but its website shows the risk of a slide climbs to high on south coast and Vancouver Island mountain ranges after the incoming storm arrives.

It says backcountry users across the southern half of the province should “adopt a conservative mindset until there is clear evidence that the snowpack has stabilized.”

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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