Most of British Columbia is experiencing extreme cold Friday as Arctic air blows across the province.
Temperatures dropped lower than –45 C in some areas and dipped to –12 C in Vancouver, with the wind making it feel like –23 C in the early morning.
The temperature in Victoria sank to –10 C, with wind chill making it feel like –20 C.
No part of the province is expected to climb above freezing on Friday, with the warmest spot forecast to be Tofino Airport at –2.5 C, according to Environment Canada.
The weather agency said the coldest spot in B.C. on Friday morning was the Puntzi Mountain airport, around 320 kilometres north of Vancouver in the Cariboo region, where a low of –48.1 C was recorded.
Other extreme cold spots included:
- –42 C in Fort Nelson
- –40 C in Dawson Creek and Burns Lake
- –39 C in Prince George
- –38 C in Yoho National Park
Environment Canada has issued nearly two dozen extreme cold warnings across the province and says frostbite and hypothermia can occur within minutes if adequate precautions are not taken when outdoors.
The weather office says the risks associated with the extreme cold are greater for children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, those working or exercising outdoors, and people who don’t have proper shelter.
The Arctic weather extends across most of Western Canada, with extreme cold warnings also in effect for all of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and large parts of Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Manitoba.
‘One of the worst days you want to be out’
The B.C. government said earlier this week that residents should prepare for hazardous road conditions, extremely cold temperatures and an increased risk of avalanches.
WorkSafeBC has highlighted its occupational health and safety conditions for keeping workers safe during spells of weather that could be harmful.
Lee Loftus, former president of B.C. Building Trades and manager of the B.C. Insulators Union, says the cold snap is particularly hard on construction workers.
“It’s brutal. The wind’s blowing, it’s cold, everything you touch is cold,” he said Friday. “It is one of the worst days you want to be out.”
On Thursday in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, dropping temperatures combined with blowing snow resulted in numerous crashes and collisions and difficult road conditions.
Firefighters in Vancouver said its rescue service responded to around 30 vehicles that had crashed as a result of the slippery roads.
In New Westminster, drivers were warned about numerous semi-trailers and buses stuck on the Queensborough Bridge.
Environment Canada said two centimetres of snow had been recorded at Vancouver International Airport as of 4 p.m. PT, as temperatures began to plummet.
As of Friday morning, many main routes had been cleared, but less busy streets still remained icy and slippery.
Cities around the province have detailed this week how they were preparing for the cold by salting roads and opening emergency weather shelters.
Crews have been out 24/7 treating major routes for ice/snow. ❄️<br><br>🔺Caution🔺 Roads may still be slippery after yesterday’s snow fall. Please slow down, drive for the conditions and watch out for pedestrians & cyclists. Check traffic cameras for updates ➡️ <a href=”https://t.co/14cMGqAXtM”>https://t.co/14cMGqAXtM</a> <a href=”https://t.co/AuO0oYZ55a”>pic.twitter.com/AuO0oYZ55a</a>
Being prepared for and dealing with winter conditions like Thursday’s is an ongoing challenge in the Lower Mainland because cities have limited budgets for dealing with snow, there is shared jurisdiction over roadways, and the majority of drivers do not have winter tires.
Daniel Fontaine, a city councillor in New Westminster, said on Thursday he was surprised how much havoc mere centimetres of snow caused the region.
“How that can utterly shut down the transportation network in Canada’s third-largest metropolitan area is still baffling to me,” he said.
In December 2022, following 20 centimetres of snow and harrowing stories of commuters trapped on bridges overnight, Fontaine and Surrey Coun. Linda Annis called for a “snow summit” meeting with the province and regional officials to discuss how to better respond to snow events, but it never happened.
“We heard that there was absolutely no interest in doing this and the area of snow removal very much falls within local municipalities,” he said.
Fontaine is concerned chaos on the roads from snow and ice will continue to happen as severe weather events increase due to climate change.
B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation told CBC News it was working to answer questions over how it prepared for and responded to Thursday’s storm.
Cold for days
The cold weather is expected to continue in B.C. for much of the weekend, with temperatures only rising to –6 C in Vancouver on Saturday.
B.C. Housing has a tool on its website to find shelters, including for extreme weather, across the province.
Environment Canada said the wind chill will likely ease Saturday afternoon but it could still feel like anywhere between –10 C and –20 C through Sunday morning in Metro Vancouver.
In many regions of B.C. bright sunshine is expected to accompany the cold temperatures.