Snow swept in fast over East Vancouver Island Sunday in squalls that left some areas bare and others resembling scenes straight out of the prairies.

“Yeah streamers,” said cyclist Bill Mandryk.

“And its actually snowing harder the closer you get to the water,” said Mandryk.

Mainroad Contracting had crews out at the first sight of snow and said the stretch of Highway 19A from Qualicum Beach to Cook Creek Road was hardest hit, with squalls hitting one after another and sending several cars into the ditch.

Officials say the safety of plow drivers was also put into jeopardy several times, as drivers who appeared unfamiliar with winter driving sped past crews trying to clear the way for others.

“People are still going by us at pretty significant speeds,” said Geoff Gwynne of Mainroad Contracting.

“We really need people to slow down when conditions are like this and we also ask that people give our operators some room,” he said.

“There’s a lot going on in the cabs of those trucks and it’s safer for everyone if you give them a little bit of room to work,” said Gwynne.

The intense winter weather is forecast to stick around for the week.

“Which could set up the possibility for black ice and freezing,” said Gwynne.

Temperatures are forecast to be 5 to 10 degrees below the seasonal average, as cold arctic air sweeps over the south coast. So emergency weather beds are being opened up ahead of it.

“When the weather gets to this kind of temperature in Victoria the province announces emergency weather response,” said Our Place Society’s Grant MacKenzie.

“And that’s because they understand that lives are at risk when they’re out in these temperatures,” said MacKenzie.

Victoria’s My Place Transition House is adding 30 additional beds and shelters across the Island are expected to add more too.

The snow squalls are forecast to keep pounding the East coast of Vancouver Island through Monday morning, before the deep freeze sets in for the week.

Skye Ryan