Drivers warned to stay off roads as extreme weather could cause highway closures

Dec 22 2022, 10:51 pm

British Columbians are anxiously rethinking their holiday plans as the Province urges people not to travel during the next few days.

On Thursday, December 22, the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness gave an update about winter storm preparations over the coming days.

Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma said that heavy snowfall and extremely cold temperatures are about to arrive as many travel during the holidays. “These are very dangerous conditions and we want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Ma.

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming said they may “close highways as necessary with short notice” during the significant coming weather event. “If you don’t have to travel, please don’t for the next couple of days,” said Fleming.

The highways that the Province is watching most closely are the Coquihalla, the Sea to Sky, Highway 4 on Vancouver Island, and Highways 1, 7, and 11 in the Fraser Valley.

Mainland Road, the Province’s contractors, are preparing for the heavy snow and have subcontractors with even more equipment ready as well. Fleming said that it’s possible that 20 to 30 cm could fall in a 10- to 12-hour window in some regions. For contractors, the timing will be tricky as they’ll have to pivot from plowing to salting quickly as conditions change from snow to freezing rain.

“Plan, prepare, and exercise utmost caution,” said Fleming.

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologists at the briefing said that cold, arctic air would collide with Pacific moisture.

Snow will start Thursday night and last into tomorrow for most of the South Coast, bringing 10 to 20 cm of snow to most areas.

“Rarely do we see such heavy snow followed by freezing rain and rainfall,” said ECCC.

The freezing rain will last between 12 and 36 hours, so it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, said ECCC.

Freezing rain can add weight to structures, cause damage to powerlines, and create treacherous road conditions. BC Hydro is advising that freezing rain is likely to cause power outages.

“This is a significant weather event, snow followed by freezing rain and then rain, and the rainfall that follows could be as much as 80 mm, which could result in some localized flooding,” said Fleming.

Ma said that flood assets like tiger dams have been prepositioned in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island.

The City of Vancouver echoed the alert from the Province, advising people to stay off the roads.

“City crews have been working 24 hours a day to apply salt and brine treatments for the coming snow while cleaning up significant snow accumulations from the recent snowfall,” said the City.

“With up to 25 cm of snow forecast overnight into Friday, followed by possible freezing rain, roads will be exceptionally slippery. The City is asking residents to only undertake essential travel to stay safe while also keeping roads clear for crews who are out treating snow, ice, and flooding issues, and emergency vehicles.”

Once Christmas Day comes around, we will enter seasonal temperatures again, but before then, be safe on the roads and don’t travel if it’s not necessary.

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