Vancouver Island winter storm: Warnings on parts of the Island, drivers asked to avoid non-essential travel

Vancouver Island winter storm: Warnings on parts of the Island, drivers asked to avoid non-essential travel
Eager kids sled on Beacon Hill during the winter storm on Jan. 15, 2020.

Yes, more snow is on the way.

A winter storm warning is in effect for east Vancouver Island, from Courtenay to Campbell River and Nanoose Bay to Fanny Bay. 

Thirty centimetres of snow is forecast to fall today and tonight in that areas as a deep low-pressure system crosses Vancouver Island.

Snow will increase significantly in intensity and southeast winds will rise in excess of 70 km/h Wednesday night.  Blowing snow with poor or near zero visibility is expected.

Coastal areas will see temperatures rise above freezing overnight tonight and may see precipitation change to rain. However, inland and higher elevations will continue to see heavy snow until Thursday morning.

Environment Canada is asking drivers in those areas to consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve. Rapidly accumulating snow will make travel difficult. Visibility will be suddenly reduced to near zero at times in heavy snow and blowing snow. If you must travel, keep others informed of your schedule and destination and carry an emergency kit and mobile phone.

Mainroad said it is expecting to see 15 to 30 centimetres of snow in the Comox Valley. Southeast winds between 70 km/h and 90 km/h is also in the forecasted. Temperatures are expected to rise overnight and heavy rain is anticipated. Fifty to 100 millimetres of rain forecasted between Thursday to Saturday.

Elsewhere, a snowfall warning is in effect for east Vancouver Island from Duncan to Nanaimo, the Malahat Highway – Goldstream to Mill Bay, the Southern Gulf Islands and inland Vancouver Island.

Snow from an approaching low-pressure system will continue today, Environment Canada said, and will intensify tonight. However, snow near sea level is expected to change to rain this evening as temperatures rise.

Additional snow accumulations of five to 15 cm can be expected in the areas under the snowfall warning before the snow changes to a few rain showers.

Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow.

And there is a wind warning in effect for east Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Ahead of the low-pressure system, southeast winds of 70 to 90 km/h will develop in Greater Victoria early in the evening and spread to the Southern Gulf Islands, East Vancouver Island – Duncan to Nanaimo, southern and western sections of Metro Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast later in the evening.

Winds will shift abruptly to the southwest late overnight or Thursday morning in the wake of the low with gusty winds.

Winds will ease Thursday morning.

The B.C. government says there is a travel advisory that applies to Vancouver Island on Highway 1 from Nanaimo south to Victoria, as well as Highways 14, 17 and 18.

Persistent snow, high winds and cold temperatures are causing poor road conditions, the government says.  Those who must travel are asked to use extreme caution and drive to the conditions. The ministry advises travellers to expect winter conditions for the rest of the week.

All motorists are encouraged to plan ahead and drive according to weather and road conditions, slowing down when they encounter bad weather or limited visibility.

Winter tire regulations are in effect, and drivers are encouraged to get the best tires they can. People should ensure their vehicles have tires with the mountain/snowflake or mud and snow (M + S) symbol when travelling on designated routes.

Also, the B.C. government says it’s important to keep space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of yours so you can stop safely. Keep well back of all the winter maintenance equipment on highways so operators can perform their maintenance safely.

Over 4,000 customers were without power on BC Hydro’s southern Vancouver Island coverage area earlier Wednesday due to the winter storm, but power has been restored to many customers.

The snow has also led to many school closures across Vancouver Island. You can find a full list here.

Victoria police are asking drivers to not drive unless their vehicles are equipped for road conditions.


The Victoria Cool Aid Society said the REES Support Services, the Labour Pool and Cool Aid’s Dental Clinic are all closed today. The Community Health Centre will close at 6 p.m. The Downtown Community Centre and all shelters remain open.

The Capital Regional District said curbside recycling collection is cancelled for all scheduled routes. Residents are advised to hold their recycling until the next collection day. Information about depots where recycling can be dropped off for free is available at

The City of Nanaimo is also recommending postponing non-essential travel. The city says crews were out last night and were able to move into secondary routes and some residential areas prior to the heavy snowfall around 4 a.m. City crews are focusing on keeping emergency and priority routes clear and will only move onto to secondary and residential once the snow subsides.

Weather forecasts are predicting a large amount of snow for today to Thursday. If at all possible, please consider postponing non-essential travel until conditions improve.

Transit is affected in Greater Victoria and the Regional District of Nanaimo.

All service is suspended in the Cowichan Valley.

In Courtenay on Wednesday afternoon, there was a collision between a car and a City of Courtenay snowplow following slippery roads. The drivers were not injured.

Parks Canada says it has closed the majority of its facilities in the Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve until further notice due to heavy snowfall and anticipated high wind conditions. This includes side roads such as Wick Road, Grice Bay Road, Radar Hill Road, all hiking trails, as well as parking lots.

Highway 4 remains open, and is being closely monitored for changing conditions. For current highway and road conditions, please visit

Please send all weather photos to [email protected].


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