Multiple crashes were reported as several centimetres of snow blanketed cities across Vancouver Island Friday.

Roads were particularly bad in Sooke, where RCMP said they were responding to "numerous" collisions.

Several vehicles could be seen in a ditch along Gillespie Road, including one on its roof.

"We're currently sending one vehicle at a time [down] right now," said Sooke firefighter Daniel Donaldson. "We have multiple vehicles rolled over in ditches and we don't recommend people coming out if they don't have to."

Police urged motorists to avoid driving if possible, and also noted many drivers were not using snow tires.

A crash in Saanich brought down power lines and knocked out electricity to more than 2,300 BC Hydro customers. Power was restored to many of the homes within hours.

Further north, the Ministry of Transportation tweeted that maintenance contractors were at work plowing roads around Duncan and Mill Bay as the snow began to accumulate. 

The Malahat was blanketed by snow as of 11 a.m.

A four-car crash described as minor occurred on the Malahat just south of Shawnigan Lake Road, but no injuries were reported.

The transportation ministry and Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement implemented mandatory chain-up rules for all commercial vehicles traveling on the route, and urged all motorists to drive with caution.

Checkpoints were being set up at West Shore Parkway for vehicles heading north on the Malahat and Bamberton Hill heading south.

One picture posted to social media showed a BC Transit bus up against a tree on Emily Carr Drive in Saanich.

Witnesses at the scene reported the bus sustained extensive damage to its front end. A tow truck arrived shortly after the collision to tow the bus.

Schools across Vancouver Island remained open throughout the day, though the Greater Victoria School District said parents were free to pick up their children early if they were concerned about worsening conditoins on roads.

Camosun College said it would close early at 1:30 p.m. due to the adverse conditions, while libraries at both of its campuses would remain open until 2:30 p.m. 

The blast of winter weather forced Harbour Air to cancel a handful of flights between Victoria and Vancouver. BC Transit tweeted that it changed several of its routes to avoid the hardest-hit areas, including Bear Mountain and William Head.

The snow was expected to continue throughout Friday and into Saturday.

Environment Canada said areas away from the water on higher terrain, like the Malahat, Shawnigan Lake and Cowichan Lake could see accumulations of up to 10 centimetres by Saturday morning.

Areas near the water like downtown Victoria could still see up to five centimetres of snow, according to Environment Canada.

"Due to the convective nature, snowfall accumulations may be highly variable and episodic throughout the afternoon and tonight. The threat of snow will end by early Saturday morning," Environment Canada said.

Snowfall warnings were issued at the start of the day for Greater Victoria, the Southern Gulf Islands, inland Vancouver Island, east and west Vancouver Island.

Environment Canada later ended all of the snowfall warning, but a wind warning was in effect for Greater Victoria and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Strong outflow winds of up to 90 kilometres an hour were expected in the regions Friday night and persisting through Saturday.