Rare snow-ice event prompts B.C. government to warn against travel

'Rarely do we see such heavy snowfall followed by freezing rain and heavy rainfall,' said one minister.

A view of the effects of frigid Vancouver weather in December 2022 following a storm storm. | Photo via @Astro_Wakata/Twitter

Just in time for Christmas, the province is asking people to not travel between B.C.’s Interior, Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island starting Thursday. 

Another blanket of heavy snow is expected to add to the more than 30 centimetres that fell in some places earlier this week. On its heels, freezing rain is expected to create treacherous driving conditions in many areas starting Friday. 

Environment Canada says the freezing rain could last until Sunday for most of B.C.’s southern Interior and will cause icy road conditions on all major corridors. 

During a press conference on Thursday Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming says he understands that people want to travel but now is not the time.

“We want to reduce any collisions and keep our roads as safe as possible and allow equipment to get out and get at what the weather is going to throw at us over the next 12 to 24 hours,” says Fleming. 

Maintenance contractors will be working 24 hours a fay throughout this storm cycle and will adjust operations as the system warms from snow to freezing rain. 

Highway closures could be possible for Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino, also in the Fraser Valley on Highway 1, Highway 7 and Highway 11. 
Heavy snowfall on the Malahat, Sea to Sky and coastal passages between the Fraser Valley and Interior could cause closures. 

“We are going to have to continue to update and advise and see what conditions materialize, how much snow accumulates overnight and how the weather changes as it is expected to on Friday,” says Fleming.

Fleming warned the weather event is serious and 20 to 30 cm of snow could fall over the south coast in just a 10- to 12-hour period. Upwards of 80 millimetres of rain could fall after the snow. 

"The freezing rain is such a concern that my ministry is strongly advising against any form of travel from tonight through to Saturday,” says Fleming. "Rarely do we see such heavy snowfall followed by freezing rain and heavy rainfall." 

On Vancouver Island, 20 cm of snow and 10 millimetres of freezing rain are predicted — a combination that is expected to create an ice glaze on top of the snow. 

Starting at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, commercial vehicle chain-up rules are being strictly enforced for vehicles travelling Highway 1 over the Malahat. 

“We are asking people to be extremely cautious when they leave their home and go out to travel, if they don’t need to travel please don’t,” says Bowinn Ma, Minister of Emergency Management.

Adding to the mix, the storm will increase the avalanche hazard in part of the southern Interior and some closures will occur for avalanche control at the end of the weekend. 

Fleming added that snowblades will be added to machines to break down ice on highways. 

Those who have to travel should be equipped with proper snow tires, you should pack a winter safety kit including water, food and blankets. Fill your gas tank and check DriveBC for updates. 

The River Forecast Centre says there is some minor-to-moderate risk of localized flooding on the South Coast on Sunday as rain falls on accumulated snow.