Motorists urged to give ample space in wake of winter storm in B.C.’s Southern Interior

City of Kelowna hard at work sanding icy roads
WATCH: After snow and warm temperatures over the weekend, then a sudden drop to icy temperatures on Sunday afternoon, the City of Kelowna is busy sanding the roads to keep drivers safe.

Road crews throughout the Okanagan have been busy the past 48 hours, dealing with difficult conditions.

On Sunday afternoon, a blast of arctic weather stormed across the Southern Interior, turning local streets and highways into sheets of ice.

The sudden drop in temperature came on the heels of snow and relatively warm weather. In no time, snow-covered roads became icy.

READ MORE: Abuse, threats hurled towards Okanagan highway maintenance call centre staff

“This one is a difficult storm particularly,” Stephen Bryans, roadways operation supervisor for the City of Kelowna, told Global News on Tuesday.

“We had a window of about four or five hours from the end of the snowstorm to get as much snow that we possibly could off the roadway.”

Bryans said the city has gone through many truckloads of sand since the weekend.

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“Sand goes on the road, it comes off. It’s just a matter of traffic blowing it off,” he said. “We have quite a few trucks out there and all they are doing right now is going round and round the routes.”

With many roads still featuring icy conditions, motorists are being urged to drive cautiously. Below are four winter driving tips:

  • Give ample stopping distance at intersections
  • Leave adequate space from vehicle to vehicle
  • Always drive with your lights on during winter months
  • Be aware of your surroundings and lower your speeds according to the conditions
“Those are the critical [tips],” said Dustin Khadikin, vice president of Emcon Services Inc., which oversees road maintenance in West Kelowna.

“And particularly in a community like West Kelowna, where you have a lot of hills, the distance where you decide to apply your brakes before a stop sign is the difference before stopping before that sign and going through an intersection.”

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Along with sand, highway crews can also apply salt. However, contractors say road salt is only effective to a certain temperature.

On Tuesday, Global News reached out to UBC Okanagan in Kelowna and spoke with Kevin Golovin, an assistant professor who specializes in the study of anti-icing materials and ice-repellent materials.

Tips for driving in the snow.
Tips for driving in the snow.

Global News: What is road salt?

Kevin Golovin: It depends on what the temperature is. If it’s not very cold, then it is table salt — and usually a mixture of table salt and sand. But if it’s colder, it’s other salts, usually magnesium chloride or calcium chloride.

GN: How does road salt work?

KG: Any compound you add to water has the potential to slightly or significantly lower the freezing point, because that mixture is harder to freeze than pure water. Salt, when you add it to water, will freeze at around -21 Celsius, whereas calcium chloride or  magnesium chloride will freeze at a lower temperature.

GN: Therefore, motorists can expect slushy conditions if road salt is applied — which is better than driving on ice.

KG: Once you break up [the ice], you can still get traction, even if part of [the ice] is still frozen.

GN: Do wind-chill values affect road salt?

KG: No. Wind chill is how humans feel. Wind chill doesn’t affect ice.

GN: Does snowfall affect road salt?

KG: The snow will melt in the same way a piece of ice will. The snow will melt faster because there’s a lot more surface area, but the actual reaction, again, is just water and salt.

In April, Global News talked to Golovin about a de-icing discovery.

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UBCO de-icing discovery
UBCO de-icing discovery

In November, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation created a web page regarding winter maintenance. To view that page, click here.

Winter storm causes chaos across B.C.
Winter storm causes chaos across B.C.