The Coquihalla highway has fully reopened after it was closed in both directions between Hope and Merritt for 2.5 hours Sunday morning due to a snow storm causing traffic chaos and unsafe driving conditions, DriveBC said.
Highway 5 was hammered by snowfall overnight. On Sunday morning, Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for the area with an additional 10 to 20 centimetres expected to fall.
“An unstable flow off the Pacific Ocean will continue today and tonight. Heavy bouts of precipitation have lowered snow levels to near 1,000 meters this morning and the snow level is expected to hover near that mark through tonight,” said the weather warning.
Highway maintenance crews were caught off guard by the heavy snowfall amounts, confirms the BC Ministry of Transportation in an email to Global News.
The Coquihalla Highway was shut down in both directions for 2.5 hours Sunday morning after a vehicle incident northbound brought traffic to a standstill.
“The weather forecast last night and early this morning called for light snow. Crews were out and prepared for what was forecasted,” the statement said.
“This morning, a storm cell came through bringing heavy and unforecasted snowfall amounts, causing some compact snow and slippery conditions to form on the highway.”
Adding to the chaos, the province confirms the onsite chain up lights warning commercial vehicles to add chains while driving on the highway mountain pass were not activated until 10 a.m.
“While chain-up conditions were posted on DriveBC this morning, electrical issues with the on site chain up lights caused them not to be activated,” the email said.
Lou Myre, who operates a semi-trailer, travelled from Kamloops to Langley along the Coquihalla highway Sunday morning.
“Pretty dicey, very slippery, snow covered, you can’t even see the road lines whatsoever. We had a lot of trucks spinning out coming upwards,” he said of the road conditions.
“We were trying to holler on the radio to pass the message to stay put down in the chain up. If you were coming southbound, it was very slippery coming down. We had a pickup truck with a horse trailer do a little jackknife down by the snowshed,” he said.
Myre believes the snowstorm caught VSA Highway Maintenance by surprise. “Hats off to them if they can get that mess untangled.”