Prepare for the snow: Inland Vancouver Island could see 5 to 15 cm by Friday morning

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Snow falls at the Port Alberni

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for inland Vancouver Island, with five to 15 centimetres expected by Friday morning.

According to Environment Canada, an intense Pacific low and front brewing in the Gulf of Alaska this afternoon will approach the south coast on Friday. The system is sliding down from the northwest so there will be little warming of the cool airmass in place over Vancouver Island.

Precipitation will fall as snow over inland Vancouver Island beginning this evening, Environment Canada said. Most communities will receive five to 10 cm of accumulation by mid-morning Friday. But higher elevation passes like Sutton Pass and Port Alberni Summit may get 15 cm or more total accumulation.

Mainroad said a mixed forecast shows the possibility of 4-8 cm of wet snow at higher elevations on BC Highway 4. This could possibly include the Port Alberni area as well as Sutton Pass and the “hump” on Highway 4.

Drivers are reminded to expect rapidly changing conditions including heavy rainfall, high winds at times as well as frost at daybreak.  Once this system passes, people should expectt a rapid drop in temperatures to well below freezing which could create icing conditions in a very short time.

Periods of limited visibility are also possible. Bridge decks and shaded corners require extra caution in these conditions.

Mainroad crews will be on the highways.

A wind warning has also been issued for Greater Victoria, the Southern Gulf Islands, west Vancouver Island, north Vancouver Island and east Vancouver Island, from Courtenay to Campbell River and Nanoose Bay to Fanny Bay.

The weather agency said a Pacific frontal system will reach Vancouver Island tonight and cross the Lower Mainland on Friday.

Ahead of the front, strong southerly winds 70 to 90 kilometres an hour will develop over the exposed coastal sections of west Vancouver Island overnight tonight. The winds are expected to ease Friday morning as the front moves inland.

Elsewhere, southeast winds of 60 to 80 km/h will develop early Friday morning over Southern Gulf Islands, the north and central sections of East Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast – Saltery Bay to Powell River, as well as Victoria near Haro Strait. The winds are expected to ease midday Friday as the front moves away from the region.

East Vancouver Island, from Courtenay to Campbell River, Duncan to Nanaimo and Nanoose Bay to Fanny Bay, is also under a special weather statement as higher elevations have the potential for snowfall accumulations to exceed 5 cm through Friday morning. The snow is expected to change to rain near midday Friday.

Earlier Thursday, BC Ferries said the high winds expected during Friday’s storm could lead to ferry cancellations. 

According to BC Ferries, there is a high probability that the windstorm predicted by Environment Canada to hit the coast tomorrow will affect ferry service from the morning through early afternoon.

If the storm comes through as predicted, BC Ferries said it may have to cancel ferry sailings on the following routes:

  • Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay
  • Tsawwassen – Duke Point
  • Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay
  • Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands
  • Comox – Powell River

Other routes could see cancellations.

BC Ferries also said as the adverse weather is expected to continue into the weekend so service may also be affected on Saturday and Sunday as well.

The anticipated weather conditions and sea state in the Hecate Strait have also led to a revised schedule for the 12:30 a.m. sailing of the Northern Expedition from Skidegate to Prince Rupert.

The schedule is now:

Friday, January 10
  • Depart Skidegate 6 a.m.
  • Arrive Prince Rupert 11:30 a.m.
  • Depart Prince Rupert 3 p.m.
  • Arrive Klemtu 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 11
  • Depart Klemtu 12 a.m.
  • Arrive Bella Bella 2:30 a.m.
  • Depart Bella Bella 3:30 a.m.
  • Arrive Port Hardy 10:00 a.m.
The vessel will return to the normal schedule with the 6 p.m. departing Port Hardy (Bear Cove) on Saturday, Jan. 11.

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