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

Vancouver and B.C.’s South Coast continues to dig out after winter storm
B.C.’s South Coast is hunkering down for another 24 hours of wild winter weather, with snow, wind and rain. Here's the latest on the winter storm which has caused significant disruptions across the region including bridge closures, transit delays, and school closures.

More snow and wind in the forecast has TransLink and the B.C. government advising travellers to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

The latest storm has also caused thousands to lose power across the South Coast.

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

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/h and 90 km/h Wednesday night.

Forecasters say the winds will ease off after midnight, but rain could also be added to the mix, creating sloppy and slippery conditions on the region’s roads.

B.C. evening weather forecast: Jan 15
B.C. evening weather forecast: Jan 15

READ MORE: From the Lower Mainland to the island, here’s what to know about the latest winter storm

Similar wind warnings are in place for Vancouver Island, along with a winter storm warning that forecasts 15 to 25 centimetres of snow by Thursday morning.

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Other coastal areas like Howe Sound were seeing gusts up to 135 km/hr late Wednesday night, matching the strength of a Category 1 hurricane.

The region is under a winter storm warning, including the Sea-to-Sky area, which could see snowfall accumulations up to 30 centimetres.

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

Wind warnings follow major snowfall
Wind warnings follow major snowfall

BC Ferries says all sailings on major routes are cancelled as of 3 p.m. in anticipation of high winds.

You can see up to date BC Ferries service notices here.

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Several schools have also already announced they will be closed Thursday — that list can be found here.

A full list of Environment Canada’s weather warnings can be found on their website.

Road conditions worsen

The Ministry of Transportation is telling drivers to stay home as the new round of winter weather sets in.

The ministry has advised the worsening conditions could be enough to force closures of the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges Wednesday night, with “no guarantee” other crossings like the North Shore bridges won’t also be affected.

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

The statement from the ministry warns shedding snow or “ice bombs” could increase on both spans, after days of drivers reporting damage to their vehicles from falling snow and ice.

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

Conditions were poor Wednesday night, leading to several vehicles going off the road and into the ditch between Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

The highway was shut down in both directions for hours along the same stretch earlier Wednesday.

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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.

Highway 14 was shut down in both directions between Waters Edge Drive and Jordan River Recsite north of Sooke after hydro lines came down across the road. DriveBC said there’s no estimated time of reopening, and wouldn’t provide an update until 8 a.m. Thursday.

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A snowfall warning is in effect for the Malahat Highway, with accumulations of five to 10 centimetres before the weather changes to rain late Wednesday evening.

Stalls were reported on the Queensborough and Alex Fraser bridges Wednesday evening along with Highway 99 near the Massey Tunnel, closing down lanes. Those issues have since been cleared.

Transit woes continue

TransLink is warning its customers to prepare for gaps in service as SkyTrains and buses deal with the ongoing conditions.

The transit authority says all stations are open on the Expo, Millennium and Canada lines, but trains are moving at slower speeds. Passengers are being told to expect longer-than-usual wait times.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland digs out after snowstorm causes highway, transit station closures

On the Expo and Millennium lines, in particular, TransLink says the freezing temperatures are leading to switch and door issues, causing delays and reductions.

Several bus routes are seeing detours, heavy delays and suspensions. Up-to-date info on those delays can be found here.

SeaBus and West Coast Express are operating normally, but HandyDART customers are being warned their trips will be rescheduled unless they are absolutely essential.

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TransLink is echoing the Ministry of Transportation in advising travellers to stay home if possible and avoid all non-essential travel.

“Consider whether there is a need to travel, and if there is, consider travelling during a non-peak period,” spokesperson Ben Murphy said.

CEO Kevin Desmond said Wednesday was a “tough day” despite knowing the snow was on the way and heaped praise on front-line staff for doing their best to keep the system moving.

“The reality is, the snow hit at pretty much the wrong time for the morning commute … just as we were pulling all our buses out of the yard,” he told CKNW’s Lynda Steele.

“The weather just overwhelmed the system. I can’t overemphasize we had as many people out on the system trying to keep the buses and trains operational, and it still dealt us a blow.”

New storm causes more transit chaos
New storm causes more transit chaos

Power outages begin to mount

BC Hydro was beginning to report power outages due to the high winds Wednesday afternoon, with the numbers starting to climb as the evening wore on.

As of midnight, over 13,500 customers were without power on the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast, including over 600 in Burnaby due to a downed wire.

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A wire was also reported down on the University Endowment Lands just east of the UBC campus, affecting 1,300 customers.

Further large outages were reported in North Vancouver, Port Moody and Coquitlam.

A transmission circuit failure was blamed for 4,300 customers in West Vancouver losing their power, but BC Hydro said service was due to be restored by 11:30 p.m. More transmission failures were reported later in Lions Bay and Squamish.

Another 5,000 customers were in the dark in the Sechelt area, nearly 1,000 of whom lost power due to a tree taking down hydro lines.

Another winter storm creates traffic mayhem
Another winter storm creates traffic mayhem

On Vancouver Island, nearly 9,500 customers are without power, with parts of Victoria, Duncan and North Cowichan reporting trees down across hydro lines. Saanich and Galiano Island were also reporting large outages.

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BC Hydro is reporting some of those customers, including 500 in Victoria, will likely have to wait until the morning for power to be restored.

More than 1,600 customers lost power in the Colwood-Langford area, along with 300 in Oak Bay.

Farther north on the island, roughly 2,100 customers are without power in Port Alberni, including roughly 280 due to a fallen tree.

Tofino is also seeing over 300 customers without power, while Ucluelet is closing in on 200 outages.

BC Hydro is warning customers without power in the Sarita Bay, Jordan River and Galiano areas will have to wait until Thursday morning for restoration, as the weather is making conditions dangerous for crews.

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BC Hydro says it has taken extra measures ahead of this most recent storm, with crews on standby to restore any power outages that may occur.

The utility is still warning people to be prepared for the lights to go out, saying it’s difficult to predict how much damage could be caused.

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

Customers should have an emergency kit ready with flashlights, extra batteries, non-perishable food and water, BC Hydro says.

Up-to-date information on power outages can be found on BC Hydro’s website and Twitter account.