Environment Canada has expanded the winter storm warning area for east Vancouver Island.
East Vancouver Island, from Courtenay to Campbell River, Duncan to Nanaimo and Nanoose Bay to Fanny Bay are all under the warning.
An additional 15 to 25 cm of snow is expected to fall late Wednesday afternoon and tonight. Heavy snow will continue and southeast winds will rise in excess of 70 km/h tonight. 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 said people should 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.
There is also a wind warning in effect for east Vancouver Island from Duncan to Nanaimo, Greater Victoria and the Southern Gulf Islands.
Environment Canada said a deep low-pressure system will cross Vancouver Island tonight. Ahead of the low, southeast winds of 70 to 90 km/h will develop over Greater Victoria early in the evening then spread to the rest of the inner South 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. The winds are expected to ease Thursday morning.
BC Ferries cancelled vessels on major routes starting at 3 p.m. and BC Hydro is reminding people to be ready for possible power outages.
READ MORE: BC Hydro warning people on Vancouver Island to plan for possible power outages during winter storm
The Malahat Highway – Goldstream to Mill Bay, the Southern Gulf Islands, north Vancouver Island and inland Vancouver Island are under a snowfall warning.
Environment Canada said snow from an approaching low-pressure system will continue today and will intensify tonight. However, snow near sea level is expected to change to rain this evening as temperatures rise.
Additional snow accumulations of 5 to 15 cm can be expected 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.
Weather in the mountains can change suddenly resulting in hazardous driving conditions.
The B.C. government says drivers are advised to avoid all but essential travel on Highway 1 from Nanaimo south to Victoria, Highway 4 west to Taylor River and Highway 19 north to Tsitika (approximately 100 km north of Campbell River). A travel advisory is also in effect for Highways 14, 17 and 18.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure advises travellers to expect winter conditions for the rest of the week. Those who must travel should use extreme caution. All drivers are encouraged to plan ahead and drive according to weather and road conditions, slowing down when they encounter bad weather or limited visibility.
People should also ensure their vehicles have tires with the mountain/snowflake or mud and snow (M + S) symbol when travelling on designated routes.