Dozens of flights in and out of Vancouver International Airport have been cancelled over the snowfall that’s expected on B.C.’s South Coast Tuesday.
WestJet confirmed it has “proactively cancelled” a number of flights due to concerns about the early winter weather, a decision that has impacted departures and arrivals from cities across the country.
Air Canada also cancelled flights “due to bad weather,” mostly within British Columbia – though other affected cities outside the province included Seattle, Denver and Edmonton.
Officials warned that significant snowfall amounts are expected at the airport, and urged passengers to check the status of their flights on the YVR website.
The weather prompted several Environment Canada snowfall warnings in the southern province and on Vancouver Island, with forecasters anticipating challenging driving conditions in some areas.
The snow is expected to give way to rain, or taper off to a few flurries early Wednesday morning for Metro Vancouver and Abbotsford.
For the Fraser Valley east of Abbotsford, the snow will taper off Wednesday evening.
“Snowfall accumulations will vary across the Lower Mainland,” Environment Canada wrote early Tuesday.
Some of the heaviest snowfall is expected in North Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Maple Ridge, where between 10 and 20 cm could fall.
Up to 25 cm of snow is forecast for higher terrain, as well as in Chilliwack and Hope.
Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford are expected to see 10 to 15 cm of snow, while five to 10 cm is forecast in Richmond and Delta.
Environment Canada is also anticipating strong gusting wind Wednesday morning that could cause snow-covered tree branches to break and lead to power outages.
POOR DRIVING CONDITIONS
City crews across the Lower Mainland have been out in full force since Monday to try and prepare arterial roads.
In Surrey, brine trucks had already covered all of the major commuter routes by Tuesday morning.
“We try to get ahead of it because we don’t want that actual snow to bond to the asphalt because it causes ice and just takes more time for our crews to respond to. We want to make sure the roads are in good shape for the travelling public out there,” said Matt Brown, street manager for the City of Surrey.
The work yard in Newton stores more than 17,000 tonnes of salt.
Brown says it’s important to slow down and be wary of workers out on the road.
“You can see our crews out there. If you see them out there responding, just give yourself lots of time when you’re travelling. If you see crews working ensure that you give them lots of space and time to do their job out there,” said Brown.
Most municipalities prioritize arterial routes first and then turn their focus to neighbourhoods.
“Our first priority is first priority roads. So that’s what we respond to. We get to those clear. If it’s snowing, we’re going to stay on those roads until they’re clear and the snow is stopped, then move on to our priority twos and so on from there and clear the road,” explained Brown.
Drivers are being urged to adjust their driving with changing road conditions.
“Rapidly accumulating snow will make travel difficult. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow,” wrote Environment Canada.
Conditions on the Coquihalla Highway between Hope to Merritt will be very hazardous, with between 20 to 35 cm of snowfall expected to accumulate.
Wind gusts up to 60 km/ h and blowing snow will likely cause reduced visibility on the Okanagan Connector, officials warn.
WARMING CENTRES OPEN
As temperatures plummet across the region, municipalities across the Lower Mainland are opening shelter spaces for those in need.
Snow, sub-zero temperatures, and strong winds are putting those who live on the street in danger.
The City of Vancouver has activated a number of warming centres in response.
Powell Street Gateway, 450 E. Hastings Street
Marpole Neighbourhood House, 8585 Hudson Street
Odd Fellows Hall, 1443 W. 8th Avenue
Directions Youth Services Centre, 1138 Burrard Street
Cascades Church, 3833 Boundary Road
Bud Osborn EWR, 27 W. Hastings Street
The Salvation Army Belkin House, 555 Homer Street
Langara YMCA, 282 W. 29th Avenue
A full list of shelters and warming centres in the Lower Mainland can be found here.