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After heavy snowfall, rain takes over; ferry sailings cancelled due to winds

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning: 70 km/h gusting to 90 beginning Friday morning, continuing to early afternoon

Snow that blanketed the Island Thursday morning was expected to shift to rain overnight, but the driving headaches aren’t over as the region braces for another round of cold and high winds.

A wind warning was in place for Greater Victoria on Friday morning, but all other Environment Canada weather alerts for the Island had ended.

B.C. Ferries has cancelled several sailings between Vancouver Island and the mainland on Friday due to high winds. As of 10:50 a.m., 21 sailings had been affected.

Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said temperatures are expected to dip again, “so anything that’s left on the ground and all that moisture is going to refreeze, or at least pockets of it are going to refreeze.”

That could make for tough driving conditions, Castellan said.

Snow accumulations were significant, with 21 centimetres falling Thursday at Victoria International Airport, setting a record for that site, topping the previous Jan. 6 record of 12.2 cm set in 1953.

Overall, the storm brought 28 cm of snow. Combined with the December 2021 snowfall total, there has been just over 50 cm in the past five weeks.

On Thursday afternoon, Island Health sent “a big, heartfelt thank you” to the Van Isle 4x4 Club, the Victoria HarbourCats, taxis and various neighbours for helping to get staff to work despite the difficult conditions.

The Greater Victoria, ­Saanich and Sooke school districts all shut for the day, although schools across the province are closed to most students until Monday. A small number of children with special needs and children of essential workers have been allowed to attend this week.

Schools were also closed in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District, and the City of Nanaimo shut down all city facilities. Schools reopened Friday and buses were running, the district said.

The University of Victoria, Camosun College and Vancouver Island University also closed, with the VIU closure affecting facilities in Nanaimo, Duncan, Parksville and Powell River.

Almost 20,000 B.C. Hydro customers on the Island were without power on Thursday morning. By late afternoon, about 6,200 people on the south Island and about 3,900 on the north Island were without power.

B.C. Hydro said there was "extensive damage" to the power line serving Tahsis and Zeballos. An aerial assessment was completed Wednesday but heavy snowfall overnight limited workers' ability to access the area. Work was expected to continue "over the next couple of days."

Customers on Quadra Island and Cortes Island were also without power overnight, with crews expected to be on the first ferry Friday morning.

As of Friday morning, 3,849 customers on the north Island and 728 in the south Island were without power, according to the B.C. Hydro outages list.

B.C. Ferries had to deal with weather-related problems Thursday on a number of routes, said spokeswoman Deborah Marshall.

“We had crews that had problems accessing the terminal through the road network or we had some delays because we had snow-removal issues at some of the terminals.”

That led to the 7 a.m. ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen being cancelled, along with the 9 a.m. from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, as well as the day’s first round trip out of Duke Point.

The Brentwood Bay-Mill Bay ferry didn’t run and some sailings between Crofton and Vesuvius were cancelled.

The vast majority of routes were on schedule as of midday.

B.C. Transit delayed bus service until 7 a.m. due to road conditions, then began adding routes as the day progressed and had 19 routes operating by early afternoon. That covered the University of Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula, West Shore and core areas. Later on Thursday afternoon, however, a number of routes were cancelled for the remainder of the day. On Friday, B.C. Transit said most routes had returned to regular routing.

At Victoria International Airport, weather conditions affected a number of flights. People were advised to check the status of flights before going to the airport.

Poor road conditions affected garbage collection in some areas. The Township of Esquimalt said cancelled and missed residences will have their garbage picked up today, while Oak Bay was collecting garbage but not organics and recycling.

Oak Bay’s pick-up of organics was rescheduled for Saturday, and recycling can be saved until residents’ next scheduled pick-up day or dropped off at the municipal yard on Elgin Road.

The Capital Regional District’s blue box recycling pick-up was also cancelled.

Saanich police warned about challenging road conditions and advised people to stay home if they didn’t need to be on the roads. Saanich police Const. Markus Anastasiades said the most important thing when driving on snow-covered roads is to allow extra stopping distance when approaching intersections or other vehicles.

ICBC said Vancouver Island crashes linked to driving too fast for road conditions increase by 65 per cent in January versus September — about 56 incidents versus 34. Slow down and allow extra time for travel when driving in bad weather, ICBC said.

“The key to winter driving is to be slow and steady,” the corporation said. “Avoid unexpected sudden movements that could cause you to skid.”

jbell@timescolonist.com