Winter storm warning: Victoria could get up to 20 cm of snow over the next two days


A winter storm warning is in effect for Greater Victoria and much of Vancouver Island, with up to 20 centimetres of snow expect to wallop the region over a two-day period.

The incoming snowfall has prompted another round of Environment Canada winter storm warnings for Greater Victoria, Southern Gulf Islands, the Malahat Highway, eastern Vancouver Island from Duncan to Nanaimo and Nanoose Bay to Fanny Bay, western Vancouver Island and inland Vancouver Island including Port Alberni.

Environment Canada says most areas will see between 10 to 15 centimetres of snow, but Greater Victoria, the Malahat, Southern Gulf Islands, Lake Cowichan, Port Renfrew and Duncan to Fanny Bay could see up to 20.

The dump of snow is coming from a low-pressure system that will land in Washington State, then sweep over the southern part of British Columbia starting late Monday night.

It’s a marked increase in the accumulation expected to hit the region from just a day earlier, when it was believed only two to five centimetres would fall.

While it’s usually the mid-Island that bears the brunt of winter snow, outflow winds will cause heavier snow for the South Island including Victoria.

The precipitation is expected to taper off late Tuesday morning.

Drivers urged to be prepared

The B.C. government is reminding drivers to be prepared to drive in the snow or to avoid travel if possible.

“Drivers are advised to stay off the road unless their vehicle is properly equipped for winter,” the province said in a statement. “For travel over the Malahat and Highway 4, all personal vehicles are required to have winter tires (M+S or mountain snowflake symbol) in good condition. All commercial vehicles must carry chains.”

Starting at 5:30 p.m. until 2 a.m. Dec. 20, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement team will be checking commercial vehicles travelling on the Malahat to ensure they are following the chain-up rules. Any not in compliance will be turned away.

Vehicles travelling over the Malahat are required to have winter tires until March 31, or face a fine of $121 for a passenger vehicle or $196 for a commercial vehicle.

READ MORE FROM OCTOBER: Winter tire requirement for B.C. highways including Malahat now in effect

The last time heavy snow fell on the Malahat, many drivers with bald or non-winter tires still attempted the treacherous mountain pass, losing control and causing chain reactions that led to major backups on the route.

“Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow,” said the weather agency in its warning.

Emcon Services Inc., which maintains highways on the South Island, said overnight snowfall already had crews working to clear roads Monday morning and asked anyone planning to drive to give themselves extra time and make sure their vehicle is ready.

Other services prepare for storm

No major outages were being reported on Vancouver Island as of Monday afternoon, but BC Hydro said it will be at the ready in case power is knocked out due to heavy snow bringing down trees and power lines.

In Victoria, city crews were out brining and salting roads early in anticipation of the snow.

The city has a prioritized system for clearing roads, with the highest being emergency routes, major arterial streets like Douglas, hills, bridge decks and access routes to hospitals, fire stations and police headquarters.

The upcoming week will be an unusually freezing cold one for B.C.’s capital.

Along with snow expected Monday and Tuesday, as well as potential for more snow later in the week, Victoria will also see highs in the negatives for the next four days straight.

That includes a high of -4 C Monday, -1 Tuesday, -6 Wednesday and -3 Thursday, according to Environment Canada.

The sub-zero temperatures caused the fountain at the BC Legislature to freeze over Monday.

Cities around the Island also extended temporary warming centres so vulnerable people without a place to shelter could stay out of the cold.

In Victoria, a warming centre at 318 Cook Street will open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., the city said in a tweet. An overnight shelter at St. John the Divine will continue operating into Tuesday after it reached its 30-bed capacity a night earlier.

Other emergency shelters in Victoria include one at Rock Bay Landing, 535 Ellice St., from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. and another at 525 Johnston Street from 8 p.m. to 8 p.m.

This is a developing story. CHEK News will update it with the latest information as it is received.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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