Ice shuts Port Mann, Alex Fraser bridges, adding to Vancouver travel woes

Ice shuts Port Mann, Alex Fraser bridges, adding to Vancouver travel woes
Tugboats escort the chemical tanker Zao Galaxy through the harbour as snow covers trees on the north shore mountains, in Vancouver, on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. A near weeklong swath of extreme cold warnings is slowly being lifted across British Columbia, but as frigid conditions ease new risks arrive in the form of freezing rain, rain and potential flooding.

Both the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges over the Fraser River are closed due to winter weather and the risk of falling ice, adding to days of travel woes in Metro Vancouver.

The Transportation Ministry says in both cases freezing rain has caused ice to accumulate on the bridge cables, meaning they must be closed for public safety until warmer weather improves conditions.

There is no estimate when either bridge will reopen.

Environment Canada has forecast ice pellets or freezing rain for much of the south coast, including Greater Victoria and Metro Vancouver, as a layer of above-freezing temperatures forms on top of the current arctic air mass.

It says those conditions could lead to ice accumulations of up to five millimetres around Victoria and the southern Gulf Islands, and as much as 25 millimetres in the Fraser Valley, before heavy rain drenches much of the south coast, raising the potential for flooding as snow and ice clog storm drains.

Snow blankets most of the province and snowfall or winter storm warnings are in place for much of the lower two-thirds of B.C., with accumulations of five to 20 centimetres or more, depending on the region.

The weather agency is maintaining extreme cold warnings for parts of northern and southeastern B.C., where wind-chill values range from -35 C to nearly -50 C.

The freezing rain has prompted advisories for travellers to stay off roads, including mountain passes to the Interior, while WestJet and Air Canada have cancelled dozens of flights and many BC Ferries sailings have been scrubbed.

Buses were cancelled in Greater Victoria until at least the early afternoon when BC Transit said it would be able to safely re-evaluate road conditions.

All scheduled WestJet flights in and out of Vancouver International and four regional airports have been halted until Friday afternoon, weather dependent.

In an update Friday, Vancouver International Airport said it was working with Air Canada and WestJet to safely restart operations after the widespread cancellations.

A total of 39 flights between midnight and noon Friday had successfully been de-iced, including some U.S. and international flights previously affected by a two-day restriction put in place to clear congestion on the tarmac, the airport said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2022.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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