How to prepare your home and garden for Vancouver Island’s incoming cold snap

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Andrew Wrean, owner of Ross Bay Home Hardware, is shown. Jan. 10, 2024.

Extreme cold and bitter winds are pushing in from the Arctic down over Western Canada. Late Wednesday night, the arctic airflow is set to reach B.C.’s northern and central coast, and on Thursday, all over Vancouver Island you can expect bitterly cold winds, far chillier than what is typical.

At Ross Bay Home Hardware, as fast as they stock de-icer, it seems to sell.

“Can’t keep it on the shelves!” said Andrew Wrean, owner of Ross Bay Home Hardware.

South Islanders are preparing for the incoming cold snap that’s set to chill the province. Starting Thursday, overnight temperatures are set to fall well below freezing across B.C.

Windchill of -20 for South Island, snow for East Vancouver Island

In an arctic outflow warning issues at 4:09 p.m. Wednesday, Environment Canada said that with the wind chill temperatures may hit -20 C for Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria, the Fraser Valley and the Southern Gulf Islands.

“Arctic air combined with strong outflow winds gusting to 60 km/h will generate wind chill values of minus 20 beginning on Thursday night. Wind chill values may moderate on Saturday afternoon but uncertainty remains on the timing of the warm-up. Frostbite and hypothermia can occur within minutes if adequate precautions are not taken when outdoors. Any skin exposure will result in frostbite. If outside, dress warmly in layers and stay dry. Cover as much exposed skin as possible to avoid frostbite,” reads the warning.

Environment Canada is also predicting the possibility of significant snowfall for East Vancouver Island from Duncan to Fanny Bay and the Malahat.

“The snow will start on Thursday afternoon and will end late Thursday night. There is still some uncertainty regarding the snowfall amounts that are expected,” said Environment Canada.

So much for the South Coast’s early spring

“People are coming in to buy their spring flowering plants, their primulas, cyclamens,” said Anthony McCloskey, manager of Oak Bay Garden Works.

Come January, the gardeners in Victoria usually get giddy, but the relatively warm winter we’re experiencing is about to end. The incoming cold will be crashing the party.

“I would say some of the bulbs that are popping up, yes some of them are going to suffer a little bit,” said McCloskey.

So for gardeners, the rush is on to cover blooming plants, tender plants, and ones not tolerant to the cold, especially overnight. Currently, the lows are predicted to hit -8 C in Victoria.

“We should be covering those plants with crop cover,” said McCloskey.

McCloskey also suggests wrapping sensitive trees, including their roots. Bark mulch and leaves will do. He also recommends bringing potted plants closer to your house.

“So it’s a good idea that you get your potted plants wet and watered so you’re not freezing the dry roots,” said McCloskey.

How to keep warm in your home

“It’s very important to protect your outdoor faucets unless you can disconnect the water because it’ll freeze on the outside. On the inside [it] stays warm from your house and it often breaks or leaks into your basement,” warned Wrean, referring to an 11 a.m. delivery of faucet covers, shovels and de-icer to his Ross Bay store.

“So if you put a faucet cover on top that’ll help. I do have more coming tomorrow. If you can’t get then wrap it up cover with some kind of cloth to stay insulated,” he said.

If you find your house drafty, BCAA suggests a number of things to stay warm, like replacing your furnace filter and putting weather stripping on your windows and under doors.

“When you have a shower. Leave that door open so that warm air can get into the rest of your house,” said Meghan Hall, director of customer experience operations with BCAA.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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