Snowstorm inbound for B.C.’s South Coast, including parts of Vancouver Island

Snowstorm inbound for B.C.'s South Coast, including parts of Vancouver Island
File photo.

Another winter storm is looming for B.C.’s South Coast, and parts of Vancouver Island could see about 15 centimetres of snow, according to Environment Canada.

The weather agency has issued snowfall warnings for parts of the Island, including Greater Victoria, the Malahat Highway, East Vancouver Island and Inland Vancouver Island, as well as the Southern Gulf Islands, saying a snowstorm is expected to arrive Tuesday night before tapering off later Wednesday.

It says this is because of a Pacific low-pressure system that’s on the way, and meteorologist Armel Castellan tells CHEK News they’ve been tracking this storm for about a week now.

“We’re talking about 10 good centimetres, 15 likely for many of the usual suspects,” he said. “So West Shore, getting into the north part of the Saanich Peninsula, Goldstream, the Malahat for sure. Up the eastern side of the Island as well.”

However, the forecast varies for parts of Greater Victoria.

“In Vic West, Fairfield and Oak Bay, we will start to see a little bit of the influence from the Juan de Fuca Strait,” said Castellan. “That will probably give us a rain and snow mix in the afternoon Wednesday, while everyone else will probably stay as snow for more of the event.”

Sunshine Coast, Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound, Sea to Sky and other parts of B.C., like Fraser Valley, are also included in the weather agency’s snowfall warnings. It says the mainland and Sunshine Coast could see 10 to 20 cm of snow.

“The big bullseye is going to be the Fraser Valley mainland side, but Metro Vancouver and even the southern half of the Sunshine Coast are going to be affected here,” said Castellan. “So it’s pretty widespread.”

READ ALSO: Victoria breaks 55-year-old weather record as temperatures plummet

He says drivers should plan ahead, adding that the snow probably won’t start falling until around midnight.

“So it’s not affecting the commute today (Tuesday), it’s really a tomorrow event,” he said. “So the overnight hours will see the snow get heavier and heavier through the day tomorrow, leading into the afternoon, maybe even evening.”

Snow events on the South Coast are “not super easy to predict,” but because the region has experienced “a lot of cold over the last week, that’s predisposing us to having snow,” noted Castellan.

“The modelling that we look at trends. There are updates every six hours. When we see trends, it ups our confidence in the forecasting. It’s still imperfect. We’ll always look back and learn something from the event.”

Freezing rain risk

There’s also a risk of freezing rain, which is forecast Tuesday night in southern sections near the United States border, according to Environment Canada.

“So this will affect both the mainland and Vancouver Island, particularly the southern half,” said Castellan.

“So places between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan, maybe up to Port Alberni, we will see some risk of freezing rain right at the start of the event. And then you get the pile of snow on top of it, so very tricky conditions.”

Road contractor Emcon Services Inc. South Island urges drivers to be prepared before getting behind the wheel and check DriveBC for road updates.

“If you see a plow truck coming up behind you, just let them get by you. Move to the side of the road the best you can, and let them get by you,” said Emcon’s Stewart Westwood.

“At least they can improve the conditions.”

Meanwhile, the City of Victoria says it’s preparing equipment for de-icing and snow removal.

“We have crews actively on standby. That’s not only crews to fill the seats on trucks, but crews across the organization,” said the city’s street operations manager Zane Burke, adding that around 60 employees will be working from various departments to aid in clearing roads.

“I will echo the road contractors out there who are doing their very best to prepare for the event,” said Castellan. “They’re also saying that non-essential travel is something you want to take very seriously and make some smart decisions.”

Prepare for reduced visibility, cancellations, delays

But wind could make things more difficult.

“We’re seeing a lot of wind coming down the Fraser Canyon through the Fraser Valley, so a lot of blowing snow, which reduces visibilities and makes it even trickier to move around,” added Castellan.

BC Transit is warning bus-goers that it could take them a while to get where they’re going.

“People can expect that there will be some service impacts in the Greater Victoria Transit System (Wednesday) in the morning,” said BC Transit’s Jamie Weiss. “That can come in the form of detours, delays or even full route suspensions depending on road conditions.”

Wednesday’s forecast is already impacting flight schedules at Victoria International Airport, which is urging passengers to confirm their flight status online. Numerous flights, including arrivals and departures, are already cancelled.

And with storms, come school closures. The Greater Victoria School District says it will update school communities via its website and social media should classes be cancelled.

“If inclement weather conditions worsen overnight, the School District aims to decide any school closures by about 6:30 a.m. to allow families time to adjust plans,” SD61 told CHEK News.

People are encouraged to monitor alerts and forecasts issued by Environment Canada by visiting its website. To report severe weather, send an email to [email protected] or post to X (formerly Twitter) using #BCStorm.

READ PREVIOUS: Vancouver Island braces for second snow event of 2024

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