Coquihalla Highway reopens as southern B.C. gets walloped with heavy snow, wind, rain

B.C. evening weather forecast: Dec 19
The Thursday, December 19, 2019 evening weather forecast for Metro Vancouver and British Columbia.

Nasty weather is pummeling southern B.C., creating dangerous driving conditions that led to the closure of a major highway.

An atmospheric river arrived in the southern part of the province late Thursday, and expected to stay in place through Saturday.

That meteorological phenomenon is forecast to dump large amounts of snow on mountain highways, and buckets of rain on the Lower Mainland, particularly the Fraser Valley.

Beyond Hope, winter storm warnings are in place for the Coquihalla Highway north to Merritt as well as on Highway 3 both from Hope to Princeton and at the Paulson Summit. A winter storm warning is also in place for parts of Highway 1 from Eagle Pass to Rogers Pass.

Environment Canada said those highways can expect snowfall amounts of between 40 and 75 centimetres by Friday afternoon.

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On Thursday night, crews shut down the Coquihalla southbound between Merritt and Hope “due to vehicle incidents.” Not long after, the highway was closed in both directions.

It reopened several hours later.

Drivers are being advised to expect poor visibility and challenging road conditions on southern Interior highways.

The Ministry of Transportation has issued travel advisories for those roads, reminding drivers that winter tire regulations are in effect.

“As this is the final travel weekend before the holidays, the ministry strongly advises drivers to plan ahead, slow down and drive appropriately for the road conditions,” the ministry said in a statement.

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DriveBC says a travel advisory is in effect for the Trans-Canada Highway between Eagle Pass and Rogers Pass.

It said motorists should anticipate delays due to weather and possible closures for avalanche control throughout the corridor.

More than a dozen snowfall warnings are in place throughout B.C.’s southern interior, including the Sea-to-Sky (Squamish to Whistler), Okanagan Valley, Okanagan Connector, Similkameen, West Kootenay, West Columbia and Boundary regions.

Snowfall in those areas is forecast to vary from between five centimetres to 25 centimetres at higher elevations.

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In many areas at lower elevations, the snow is forecast to change to showers or rain by Friday morning.

Avalanche Canada has also raised its avalanche danger rating to “high” for much of the province, warning the atmospheric river will cause “widespread avalanche activity” throughout the South Coast.

Other regions like the Kootenays, Cariboo and Columbias could see the thin existing snowpack have trouble dealing with the heavy dump of snow, the agency further warned.

Environment Canada
Environment Canada Environment Canada

You can see an up to date breakdown of Environment Canada warnings and weather alerts here.

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Environment Canada has also issued a rainfall warning for Chilliwack and Hope, with between 50 and 70 millimetres of rain expected through Friday.

The agency warns that localized flooding is possible in low-lying areas.

READ MORE: Winter is here: Prepare for B.C.’s changing road conditions, say police

Snow has already begun to pile up on the North Shore mountains, and on Thursday, Metro Vancouver closed the Grouse Grind trail due to snow and ice buildup.

A wind warning was also issued for the Greater Victoria area, with winds of up to 70 km/h, and gusts of up to 90 km/h in the Haro Strait area expected to arrive late afternoon.

While the warning was dropped Thursday evening, the high winds led to some BC Ferries cancellations late Thursday afternoon.

The company announced it was cancelling the 3:15 p.m. sailing from Tsawwassen and the 5:45 p.m. sailing from Duke Point, but said service is expected to resume as normal as the weather improves.

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BC Hydro reported power outages in the Brentwood Bay, Metchosin and Colwood areas Thursday evening, affecting more than 3,000 customers.

Crews restored the power later the same evening.