Snow and freezing rain forecasts across southwestern British Columbia have caused a second day of school closures and travel delays in both the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.
All school districts in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley cancelled classes early Thursday, and in-person classes were also cancelled at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, BCIT and Capilano University.
Schools were open on Vancouver Island Thursday morning but by the afternoon worsening weather had led to the cancellation of several school bus pickups and after-school events.
Parents have been told to check with their local school districts for details.
Kids, adults make winter fun
Making the best of the situation, many children and adults have hit the outdoors, skiing and sledding in local parks in the rare winter weather. In East Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood, dozens of residents gathered for an impromptu snowball fight Wednesday night.
“Families, kids, dogs, everyone’s running around and having fun,” said participant Coltild Orozco.
According to Environment Canada, preliminary figures show 27.2 centimetres of snow had fallen at the Vancouver airport by Thursday morning, with more than 30 centimetres observed by weather watchers in other parts of the Lower Mainland.
In Metro Vancouver, snow started falling again around noon. The amount of snow that fell overnight on Wednesday would mean it was Vancouver’s snowiest day since Dec. 29, 1996, when the city’s airport recorded 40.9 cm.
It would also be one of Vancouver’s top 10 snowiest days on record, according to CBC weather specialist Darius Mahdavi.
Dangerous driving conditions
There are also dangers associated with the weather, a fact underlined by the death of a 31-year-old man in Abbotsford early Thursday morning after he was struck by a snowplow while walking along a road parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Const. Scott McClure said visibility was poor when the incident occurred and a recent dump of snow had forced pedestrians off sidewalks and shoulders onto roads.
People who use mobility aids are also experiencing challenges navigating uncleared sidewalks. Tanelle Bolt, a design and accessibility consultant based in Langford, said snow from streets and driveways is often plowed onto sidewalks and curbs, making navigation nearly impossible.
“I see it every single time it snows,” she said. “It’s not understood [by the wider community].”
The province’s Ministry of Transportation said in a release that its maintenance contractors were preparing for freezing rain and snow through the Fraser Valley, in Metro Vancouver, along the Sea to Sky Highway, and on southern and central Vancouver Island.
“Highways, roads and parking lots will be extremely slippery, and any travel by road should be done with caution,” it said.
The ministry also said on its X page for the Lower Mainland area that “rapidly deteriorating conditions” were possible later Thursday. Road and bridge closures could come at “short notice”, it warned.
The province said contractors will apply brine and abrasive materials to roadways and clear snow as it accumulates.
“However, freezing rain is one of the most difficult weather conditions to effectively manage, and bridges and roads may be closed to traffic in the interest of public safety,” it said.
Strong outflow winds have also been forecast for Howe Sound, gusting up to 100 km/h, and the Central Coast, where gusts could reach 120 km/h. Southeasterly winds of 90 km/h gusting to 110 km/h are also expected over northern Vancouver Island from Thursday into Friday.
More stories about winter weather across B.C.:
Flights, ferries, transit
B.C. Ferries said Thursday morning that several sailings between Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands and Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands had either been cancelled or delayed due to adverse weather and unsafe docking conditions. All sailings to and from Galiano Island were cancelled Thursday around 2:30 p.m.
Flight schedules could also continue to be affected Thursday, Vancouver International Airport said.
TransLink said Thursday morning its buses and trains across Metro Vancouver were operating reasonably well, and not having students in school for the day was easing pressure on the system.
Ahead of the evening commute, the transit authority said commuters should build some extra time into their travel plans, as the 60-foot articulated buses on major routes had been replaced with 40-foot regular buses. TransLink says the smaller buses are better able to manoeuvre during snowfall.
Canada Post cancelled mail delivery in Metro Vancouver on Wednesday but said on Thursday delivery would resume with potential delays due to “ongoing icy conditions.”
Meanwhile, extreme cold warnings remain in effect in the Prairies, with wind chill values around –40 C expected in parts of northern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba.