Winter blast clogs island roads, cancels flights and closes schools
A powerful winter storm is leaving its mark on Vancouver Island, blanketing roads in snow and ice and closing schools.
Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for the entire south coast saying between 15 and 25 centimetres of snow could fall Monday, in addition to the accumulations from Sunday.
School districts reacted swiftly, taking to social media to inform students and parents of a rare island snow day.
The Greater Victoria School District, Saanich and Sooke regions all closed their doors as winter's grip continued to squeeze the south island. Up-island, schools in Comox, Courtenay and Nanaimo were also closed for the day. The Campbell River School District remained open.
"Close to 11,000 students will stay home today in the Sooke School District,” said Sooke Superintendent Scott Stinson. “With winter driving conditions on most of the side roads, temperatures sticking to around the freezing mark and more snow forecasted throughout the day, we decided it was safest for staff and students to stay home and warm.”
As of 5 p.m., the snow remained bad enough that the Cowichan Valley School District said it would cancel all classes through Tuesday as well.
The University of Victoria said it was closing the campus early due to snow. Classes were cancelled from 3:30 p.m. on, and other campus services were to close at 4:30 p.m
BC Ferries announced it would preemptively cancel evening sailings between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Final round trip sailings between Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen-Duke Point and Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay have all been cancelled.
The Ministry of Transportation issued travel advisories for the Trans-Canada Highway on Vancouver Island between Victoria and Chemainus, Highway 14 between Metchosin and Port Renfrew and Highway 18 at North Shore Road East in Lake Cowichan. The ministry said there was compact snow on all three highways and asked drivers to proceed with "all due care and attention."
Victoria’s international airport was also feeling the cold. Multiple flights were cancelled Monday morning and travelers were being asked to check with their airlines for departure updates.
CFB Esquimalt also shut down as base command said only critical personnel were being asked to brave today’s frosty conditions.
Roads proved to be a major concern. Multiple vehicles were abandoned on the Malahat, and Drive BC reported that Highway 14 near Sooke was closed at Otter Point Road due to a downed tree.
Snow was also came down fast on the Pat Bay Highway Monday afternoon, with conditions being described as treacherous.
Police cordoned off Island View Highway westbound at the intersection with the Pat Bay Highway because cars were unable to get up the hill safely.
BC Transit tweeted a warning to riders saying all bus routes were expected to be late and many have been cancelled.
More snow on the way
The precipitation that fell overnight and into Monday morning would followed by another blast of snow beginning Monday night, according to Environment Canada.
"A second low pressure centre in as many days will five more snow to the South Coast beginning this afternoon and continuing into Tuesday morning," the agency said. "This second disturbance will spread snow to virtually the entire South Coast with heaviest amounts falling tonight."
Accumulations will vary across the island but most areas will see between 10 to 15 centimetres, with more possible at higher elevations.
But there's good news, according to Environment Canada Meteorologist Armel Castellan.
"What we're seeing is, about Valentine's Day, things warming up, which is nice to know," he said. "We're going to warm up but not to regular seasonal values, but to temperatures maybe two to four [degrees] colder than normal."
He said temperatures so far in February have been between 7-9 degrees colder than normal for the first part of the month.
Warnings are in effect for Greater Victoria, the Southern Gulf Islands and west, east and inland Vancouver Island.