B.C. South Coast residents urged to stay home as heavy snow chokes roads, cancels flights and ferries

B.C. South Coast residents urged to stay home as heavy snow chokes roads, cancels flights and ferries

Authorities on BC’s south coast are urging residents to stay home on Tuesday after a rare, heavy snowfall smothered virtually all transportation, from grounded flights at the airport to traffic jams on the roads.

Piles of snow and unseasonably cold temperatures swept across the lower mainland and Vancouver Island overnight and throughout the morning, leaving up to 30 centimeters of fresh powder in some higher-elevation residential areas.

The weather prompted “bulk cancellations” at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), with no planes coming or going at all on Tuesday morning ahead of the busiest day of the year on Thursday.

Several planes full of passengers stayed on the tarmac for many hours and could not return to the gate to disembark the passengers.

A crowd of passengers are pictured at a baggage terminal during mass cancellations and delays at Vancouver International Airport.
A crowd of passengers is pictured at a baggage terminal on December 20, 2022 during mass cancellations and delays at Vancouver International Airport. (Anne-Julie Tetu/CBC Radio-Canada)

“It’s both a psychological challenge and a physical challenge in terms of fatigue,” said Jeff Bryant, a passenger who spent nearly 12 hours on his WestJet flight to Toronto before disembarking just before 8 a.m. PT Tuesday.

“I give great credit to many people for challenging the inner conflict they are feeling.”

Travelers are asked on Tuesday to check their flight status before leaving home and to avoid the airport unless absolutely necessary.

Regarding sea travel, a spokesman said BC Ferries has canceled sailings on all three main routes between Vancouver Island and the lower mainland due to weather.

Heavy snow covered parts of southern Vancouver Island by about 25 centimeters, while Metro Vancouver managed up to 15 centimeters.

“This snowfall is quite significant for the lower mainland, in an area that doesn’t typically get heavy snow,” Environment Canada meteorologist Jonathan Bau said, adding Vancouver Island was “hardest hit.”

“The amount of snow we’ve seen is on the rare side of the scale.”

CLOCK | The combination of cold temperatures and heavy snowfall causes significant travel problems:

“A lot of snow for us,” says BC Reporter

A rare combination of cold temperatures, ice and snow is causing significant travel problems on BC’s south coast, says CBC news reporter Susana da Silva.

Police in Abbotsford, BC, east of Vancouver, reported whiteout conditions along Highway 1 through the Fraser Valley early Tuesday morning.

Environment Canada has weather warnings in effect for most of BC, forecasting either blowing snow, extreme cold or arctic runoff conditions.

  • Do you have photos or videos of the snow that you would like to share? Email [email protected]

The agency said another 5 to 10 centimeters will be added for most areas before the snow is expected to ease later on Tuesday. Even after the snow stops, Bau said, the severe cold will continue.

“We would like to point out that after the system has moved through the Arctic [air] will really settle in the region,” he said, looking towards the south coast.

“As such, we are forecasting near, if not record-breaking, lows for tonight and Wednesday night.”

The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of the Fraser Valley have all canceled face-to-face exams on Tuesday.

Preliminary totals as of 6 a.m. PT show unusually heavy snow fell in several locations overnight through Tuesday:

  • Malahat Highway: 32 centimeters
  • Victoria International Airport: 30 cm
  • Nanaimo: 30 cm
  • Pitt meadows: 25 cm
  • Vancouver International Airport: 24 cm
  • White stone: 23 cm
  • Abbotsford International Airport: 17 cm
  • West Vancouver: 14 cm

The province said drivers in the Lower Mainland “are advised to stay off the road unless their vehicle is properly equipped with winter tires.”

For those with snow tires who must drive, a statement Monday said drivers should pack an emergency kit in their vehicles.

CLOCK | Vancouver hit with a blast of winter weather:

Vancouver was hit by a blast of winter weather

Another blast of cold temperatures and snow is hitting Vancouver, making for treacherous conditions and prompting the province to ask people to stay off the roads unless they have winter tires.

Elsewhere around BC, the prolonged deep freeze Monday produced multiple daily low temperature records, including a low of -46.8C west of Williams Lake, while the Quesnel area broke a record set 78 years ago when it recorded a low of -37, Reached 5°C.

North BC is covered by extreme cold or arctic outflow warnings with frigid conditions expected to continue this week.

CLOCK | Tips and tricks for driving in the snow:

Tips and tricks for driving in the snow

CBC Vancouver host Lien Yeung takes a driving lesson at Mount Seymour with Driving Unlimited Academy instructor Patrick Ah-Yu, who shows her how to winterize a car and shares tips on driving in snow.

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