Most of B.C. is expected to see a white Christmas as the province faces a wallop of winter weather
“It’s the bitterly cold in the long term and a chance of snow that’s very high in the short term,” Global BC meteorologist Mark Madryga explained.
Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Howe Sound and the Sunshine Coast were under arctic outflow and snowfall warnings Friday morning, while many north and central interior regions are under extreme cold warnings.
Many parts of the Lower Mainland and eastern Vancouver Island saw snowfall Friday morning, and Madryga forecast more widespread periods of snow on Saturday, ranging from a few centimetres in Metro Vancouver to as much as 25 centimetres in Abbotsford.
In the longer-term, Environment Canada warned of biting cold in the days to come.
“An Arctic ridge of high pressure over the B.C. Interior will bring strong and bitterly cold outflow winds to coastal communities beginning Saturday night. The outflow winds will create wind chill values of minus 20 and below,” Environment Canada said.
“Mainland inlets and areas that are exposed to outflow winds are more likely to experience these very cold wind chill values. Temperatures will remain well below seasonal and will bottom out near-record cold temperatures next week.”
Amid the threat of winter weather, the province closed the the Alex Fraser Bridge for several hours for “safety reasons.”
In previous years, snow and ice gathered on the bridge’s cables, then fell on vehicles as “ice bombs,” causing thousands of dollars in damage.
“This full bridge closure is necessary to protect travellers due to snow buildup on the cables,” the ministry said.
“With the high winds, rope technicians are unable to deploy the drop system that would normally clear the cables, causing the likelihood that snow or ice may shed from the cables onto the lanes. Conditions are being closely monitored. It’s not known how long the bridge closure will be.”
The bridge reopened to traffic shortly before 2 p.m.
The City of Vancouver said it was bringing priority routes ahead in anticipation of more winter weather.
It also opened four warming centres and six extreme weather response shelters for the homeless or anyone vulnerable to the extreme cold.
With snow and cold in the forecast, British Columbians are also being urged to check in regularly on seniors and other vulnerable people.