Okanagan residents awoke to a winter wonderland outside their windows as snowfall rolled into parts of the region on Monday morning, causing slippery road conditions and power outages.
Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for the Okanagan, stretching from Vernon to Penticton, with up to 20 centimetres of snow forecast to fall in the Nicola and Boundary regions of the B.C. Interior.
Snowfall will be more variable in the Okanagan where lower elevations along the lake may receive 10 centimetres or less, the weather agency said, however, there will be 15 centimetres or more over higher terrain.
Environment Canada meteorologist, Doug Lundquist said the wild weather system brought record-breaking warm temperatures to the Okanagan on Sunday. In Penticton, it was 13.6 C on Dec. 20, breaking the past record of 10.6 C in 1933. The city was “likely” the warmest place in Canada, he said.
“It’s really strange, it’s coming in from the southwest, a low-pressure system that is going to zip across the Interior today,” he said, with some potential dumps of snow in valley bottoms.
The winter storm will pack a punch on the B.C. Southern Interior highway mountain passes, creating potentially dangerous driving conditions.
Up to 35 centimetres of snow is forecast to fall on the Okanagan Connector, between Merritt and Kelowna.
The Coquihalla highway between Hope and Kamloops will receive up to 20 centimetres of snow, while Highway 3, from Hope to Princeton via Allison pass, could receive up to 40 centimetres of snow.
In the Shuswap, a snowfall warning is in effect, with total amounts of 10 to 20 centimetres expected. Motorists should also prepare for hazardous driving conditions on the Trans-Canada Highway between Eagle Pass and Rogers Pass, with up to 25 centimetres forecast to fall over higher terrain.
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The storm will also hit the Kootenays, with total snowfall accumulation of 15 to 25 centimetres across southeast B.C. For Kootenay Pass, amounts up to 40 centimetres are possible.
Commuters are urged to postpone all non-essential travel until the storm has passed.
More than 5,300 FortisBC customers were without power in east Kelowna on Monday morning, and no restoration time is available.
Municipal snow removal crews are out in full force, with cities prioritizing high-traffic routes and collector roads before local neighbourhood streets.
“Residents are asked to be patient as crews make their way through Priority 1 and 2 areas first, before moving into residential roads in neighbourhoods,” said Stephen Bryans, roadway operations supervisor with the City of Kelowna.
“We’ll also be working on clearing multi-use pathways for those that use active transportation as well as City-owned sidewalks.”
Residents and local businesses are encouraged to do their part by shoveling sidewalks and making sure to move vehicles off the road to help plows and sanders move quickly and safely.
As for if Okanagan residents can expect a white Christmas, Lundquist said it’s still too early to tell.
“This is our chance today, if it melts out near the lake in the next 24 hours, then we probably won’t have anything for Christmas, because we are not expecting any storms now, until late Christmas night, perhaps into Boxing Day,” he said.
He added, though, that communities in higher elevations like Joe Rich near Kelowna can expect a white Christmas.
Motorists can monitor road conditions in real-time at DriveBC.ca