Extreme winter conditions, hurricane-force winds hit the south coast of British Columbia in a third storm this week

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UPDATE – January 16, 2020: The windy and snowy winter storm that hit the south coast on Wednesday is starting to move. Conditions are less severe on Thursday, but forecasters say the region is not out of the woods yet. Find an updated story here.


High winds and extreme winter weather conditions arose Wednesday evening and are expected to continue through Thursday, with reports of gusts of over 130 km / h in parts of the south coast of British Columbia.

A rare blizzard warning was in effect for the Howe Sound area where the strongest winds were blowing. And there have been warnings of snowfall and wind in other coastal areas, including Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.

“This storm tastes a little different from what we’ve seen [Tuesday] night and it’s very windy, ”said Matt MacDonald, meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The British Columbia government has warned commuters to expect extreme winter conditions, and said major bridges and highways could be closed for safety as another storm hits the south coast.

A man rides his bike through the snow in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

As of Wednesday evening, BC Hydro was working to restore power to more than 20,000 customers in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island as the winds pick up. Most of the blackouts were caused by felled trees on power lines.

Electricity will not be restored to Sarita Bay and the Jordan River on Vancouver Island, or Galiano Island until at least Thursday, as snow and windy conditions make it too dangerous for teams to access the lake. region, according to BC Hydro.

BC Ferries has canceled all crossings on major routes between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island starting at 3 p.m. PT due to high winds. Routes leaving Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay are affected.

WATCH | Commuters struggle as more snow and high winds hit late Wednesday:

Commuters face high winds and more snow as third storm hits south coast

The BC government is warning of extreme winter conditions on roads Wednesday through Thursday. Major bridges and highways may be closed for safety as another storm hits the south coast. 0:39

Blizzard conditions

Winds of 70 to 90 km / h were forecast for Metro Vancouver and parts of Vancouver Island. BC Ferries has stated that it cannot sail in strong winds as the mooring becomes unsafe.

Heavy snow showers resumed Wednesday afternoon, with up to two centimeters of snowfall in Metro Vancouver and up to 10 centimeters in the forecast for the North Coast, Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

BC Ferries crossings are being canceled at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver in anticipation of high winds later today Wednesday. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Extreme cold and winter storm warnings were also in effect in the interior and north, where new records were broken on Wednesday when temperatures dropped to freezing cold – 48.8 C in some areas.

School districts in the area said they would notify students and parents of class cancellations early Thursday morning after reviewing conditions.

A bus that slipped from the road onto the sidewalk is pictured stuck after a heavy snowfall in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Environment Canada warns of “blizzard conditions” and “hurricane-force winds” of up to 110 km / h along the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The gusts hit over 130 km / h in the evening.

“I have been forecasting the weather here for 13 years now and have never seen hurricane-force winds in Howe Sound,” MacDonald said.

Travel chaos through the region

Persistent snow, high winds and extremely cold temperatures on British Columbia’s south coast created travel chaos in the region this week, but conditions were pushed to the limit early Wednesday after the storm dumped at least 25 centimeters of snow in many areas.

“I think this storm will be one for the record books,” MacDonald said.

The provincial government has asked residents of the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island to stay home for the day, avoid driving, and reconsider public transportation if they can after a snowstorm created dangerous road conditions.

Classes have been canceled in all school districts in the eastern Fraser Valley, through Metro Vancouver and all the way to Vancouver Island. Canada Post has suspended delivery for the rest of the day to several regions.

Commuters wait for delayed SkyTrains at Vancouver’s Commercial-Broadway station on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

The highway “a train wreck”

The roads in the area were covered with fresh powder on Wednesday on a layer of packed snow and ice. Conditions along Highway 1 in the Fraser Valley have been described as “an extreme whiteout and Abbotsford Police have asked motorists to avoid all travel on the road between Chilliwack and Abbotsford.”

A police spokesperson described the road as “a train wreck”.

The province’s travel advisory also covered four Vancouver Island highways, including Highway 1 between Nanaimo and Victoria.

Visibility will be limited on the Coquihalla Highway, the Okanagan Connector and Highway 1 crossing the Fraser Canyon. Heavy snow is expected to intensify again from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday.

WATCH | Vancouver drivers wrestle on the city’s snow-capped hills:

Vancouver drivers wrestle through snowy downtown streets

Drivers, including police officers, battled through the snowy streets of downtown Vancouver following a winter storm on January 15, 2020. 0:33

Transit staff tell commuters to give up and go home

Lower Mainland commuters were also asked to stay home on Wednesday, as TransLink said service would be “considerably slower” across the region. Those who braved the winter conditions faced long waits, stranded buses and, in some cases, SkyTrain attendants. who told them to give up and go home.

Three stations in Surrey and New Westminster had to be closed.

Passengers abandoned a TransLink bus stuck in the snow on Austin Avenue in Coquitlam on Wednesday morning. (Nathan Pachal / Twitter)

Ice buildup preventing doors from closing properly is a problem – attendant at Commercial-Broadway station in Vancouver was walking around with a plastic hockey stick, using it to knock the ice off the train.

Vancouver area buses are notoriously graceless in the snow and often get stuck in groups. Passengers on at least one hilly road in Coquitlam abandoned their bus and chose to walk in the snow. At one point, a line of broken down buses stretched for a block in the South Granville area of ​​Vancouver.

“Customers are encouraged to determine if they need to travel today, and if there is a need, if they might consider traveling outside of peak hours,” TransLink said in a statement.

More than a dozen buses were stranded on Granville Street near 6th Avenue West Wednesday morning. (Mike McDonald)

An out-of-school child slides down a closed street in East Vancouver after a heavy snowfall on January 15, 2020. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

All public schools and post-secondary institutions in the eastern Fraser Valley in Victoria and Nanaimo canceled classes on Wednesday after the storm dumped at least 10 inches of snow in many areas. Parts of the island and the elevated areas of Metro Vancouver saw up to 40 centimeters in a matter of hours.

A number of flights to and from Vancouver International Airport, primarily between British Columbia and Alberta, were canceled Wednesday morning as snow covered the airport. Passengers were advised to consult the airport website for details on their flight before leaving home.

Forecasters said Friday would be the “transition day” away from the snowy weather on the south coast. The freezing, snowy air should revert to seasonal showers.

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