After more than a week of stormy Pacific weather blowing across Southern B.C., the South Coast is poised to get its first real taste of winter on Friday.
Environment Canada has issued snowfall warnings for Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Howe Sound and eastern parts of Vancouver Island.
The agency says up to five centimetres of snow are possible near sea level, while five to 15 centimetres are possible inland.
At higher elevations, including the North Shore and Burnaby Mountain, it said between 15 and 25 centimetres could fall, as a moist low front arrives amid freezing temperatures overnight.
Global BC Meteorologist Kristi Gordon said as is always the case for Metro Vancouver snow, the snowfall amounts will vary widely from neighbourhood-to-neighbourhood.”
“Howe Sound and the Sea-to-Sky Highway could see more than 20 centimeters of snow by noon Friday,” said Gordon.
“While areas near the water on the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and in Metro Vancouver may see just rain or a rain/snow mix and no accumulations.”
Gordon said the precipitation is expected to begin Thursday evening as a mix of rain and snow, though it could start earlier at higher elevations.
The snow will pick up the pace as temperatures drop overnight, she said.
“By late morning, conditions are expected to warm up in most regions, snow will change to rain and the roads could become a slushy mess in some areas,” added Gordon.
“Rain is in the forecast for the remainder of Friday and could wash much of the snow away.”
By late Sunday and into next week arctic air could bring temperatures in Metro Vancouver as low as -10 C by Tuesday morning, according to Environment Canada.
It’s not just snow on its way.
Environment Canada has also issued wind warnings for Greater Victoria, western Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, with winds of up to 80 kilometres in the forecast for the capital region.
Environment Canada added that wet snow could create the potential for tree damage and power outages.
BC Hydro spokesperson Kevin Aquino said in-house meteorologists are closely monitoring the situation.
“The beauty of it is that our crews are always well positioned, we do have about 55 offices across the province,” he said. “Our crews can activate our storm response at a moment’s notice.”
BC Ferries is anticipating winds in excess of 90 km/hr on Friday morning and warns there could be sailing delays or cancellations on major routes.
Passengers are being advised to watch BC Ferries website for updates on conditions.
With the region facing its first potential snowfall of the season, commuters are also being warned to plan ahead and leave extra time to get to their destinations.
TransLink says it has activated its snow plan, which includes calling in extra staff to help coordinate customer service.
It’s also coupling Millennium Line trains into four-car units to boost capacity, and is deploying trucks to de-ice bus trolley lines.
If there’s a significant amount of snow, the agency says it will replace articulated buses with shorter counterparts in steep and slippery areas, and deploy “tire socks” on buses headed to Burnaby Mountain and parts of the North Shore.
TransLink will also add attendants to Expo and Millennium Line SkyTrains and deploy de-icer on SkyTrain power rails if there is more snow. It will also add staffing to the HandyDART system, it said.
The City of Vancouver says crews had already hit the road Thursday to lay salt and brine priority routes, and that plows are on 24-hour standby if needed.
“Should we see accumulations, our priorities include arterials, bus routes, bridges, emergency routes, school routes and priority bike lanes,” said the city.
“We also prioritize bus stops, arterial corner ramps and pedestrian pathways along the seawall and the Arbutus Greenway.”
The City of Surrey says it is already running road crews in continuous 12-hour shifts “until the threat of ice and snow is gone.”
“In a way it’s kind of the worst of the worst, you have rain, you have snow, and then you have temperatures that are really plummeting to what we very rarely see. So for the homeless that all spells trouble,” said Union Gospel Mission spokesperson Jeremy Hunka.
“We know that mortality rates increase int he extreme cold, there’s an extreme need.”
Along with the cold itself, Hunka said the homeless face dangers from attempts to keep warm, with potential fires caused by electric or gas powered heaters.
He said the city is opening its cold weather shelter and working to distribute cold weather gear and survival gear to people living rough.
With temperatures around zero and precipitation in the forecast, Vancouver is also planning to activate warming centres starting on Sunday, Jan. 12.
The city says the centres will be open to anyone, and that users can bring carts and pets inside. People with their own bedding will also be allowed to sleep in the centres, and hot drinks and snacks will be available.
The Powell Street Getaway, across from Oppenheimer Park, is already operating as a warming centre and will remain open every night until Jan. 15, the city said.
Additional warming centres will include:
Jan. 12-Jan. 14
- Britannia Community Centre (Hours: 9 pm to 8:30 am)
- Vancouver Aquatic Centre (Hours: 10 pm to 6 am)
- Overdose Prevention Society (Hours: 11 pm to 8 am)
- Britannia Community Centre (Hours: 9 pm to 8:30 am)
- Overdose Prevention Society (Hours: 11 pm to 8 am )