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Port Mann, Alex Fraser bridges could be closed due to snow and wind: ministry

Click to play video: 'Vancouver and B.C.’s South Coast continues to dig out after winter storm' Vancouver and B.C.’s South Coast continues to dig out after winter storm
Here's the latest on the winter storm which has caused significant disruptions across the region including bridge closures, transit delays, and school closures. – Jan 16, 2020

The next round of snow and wind hitting the Lower Mainland could be nasty enough to shut down the region’s bridges, the Ministry of Transportation warns.

The ministry said in a statement that the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges could be closed anytime between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, after crews already faced “challenges” with shedding snow or “ice bombs” on the spans earlier Wednesday.

Click to play video: 'Another winter storm creates traffic mayhem' Another winter storm creates traffic mayhem
Another winter storm creates traffic mayhem – Jan 15, 2020

READ MORE: Power outages, traffic and transit delays as new round of snow and wind hits Lower Mainland

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The ministry’s South Coast executive director Ashok Bhatti added while there’s “no guarantee” other bridges like the Lions Gate or Ironworkers will remain open, he said the Port Mann and Alex Fraser are the “most prone to adverse winter conditions.”

“We have concerns with these bridges, and we want to make sure commuters are safe,” he said.

“There is a possibility that drivers can expect some lane closures on those structures, and if need be we may have to move to full closures if the conditions persist, just because of how challenging it is to address.”

Click to play video: 'Treacherous road conditions in the Fraser Valley' Treacherous road conditions in the Fraser Valley
Treacherous road conditions in the Fraser Valley – Jan 15, 2020

Environment Canada has reissued new wind and snow warnings for the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, with up to 10 more centimetres in the forecast along with winds between 70 km/hr and 90 km/hr by Wednesday night.

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Those warnings came after heavy snow caused traffic and transit chaos throughout the South Coast and Vancouver Island Wednesday morning.

READ MORE: Wind warning prompts BC Ferries to cancel sailings on all major routes

Multiple vehicle stalls and backups were reported on the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges Wednesday morning, with the latter having to close down completely to allow crews to plow the snow away.

But Bhatti says the concern this time is the addition of rising temperatures to the snow and wind, which could bring rain into the mix and create sloppy and slippery conditions.

Click to play video: 'Schools closed as winter storm wallops Lower Mainland' Schools closed as winter storm wallops Lower Mainland
Schools closed as winter storm wallops Lower Mainland – Jan 15, 2020

“The conditions could change regularly, so we are going to have to do our best to keep updating commuters while ensuring their safety,” he said.

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Falling snow and ice from the cables on the Fraser River crossings are proving to be an ongoing challenge since snow began falling on the region late last week.

To date, ICBC says they’ve received 88 claims for vehicles damaged by ice bombs on the Port Mann Bridge alone, along with 50 on the Alex Fraser and three on the Golden Ears Bridge.

The Ministry of Transportation is tasked with clearing ice and snow from the cables on the region’s bridges, and has spent millions of dollars to clear snow and ice from both spans in past years. In 2017, the bill hit $5 million.

READ MORE: Winter driving 101: How to survive Metro Vancouver’s ‘snowmageddon’

The ministry says the westbound lanes of Highway 1 west of Hope could also be closed due to poor visibility, as the high winds kick up snow.

The highway was shut down in both directions for hours earlier Wednesday between Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

A travel advisory has also been extended for multiple highways on Vancouver Island, including Highway 1 between Nanaimo and Victoria, Highway 4 west to Taylor River, and Highway 19 north to Tsitika.

Further advisories remain in place for Highways 14, 17 and 18.

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The latest road conditions can be found on Drive BC and their social media accounts.

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