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First snow of season hits Island; on slippery roads, a surge of collisions

A section of Highway 17 at Haliburton Road was closed Monday night because of a multi-vehicle crash during heavy snowfall. Police also reported several other collisions around Greater Victoria. They asked people to not drive unless it was essential.

Update: A multi-vehicle crash forced the closing of a section of Highway 17 near Haliburton Road during heavy snowfall on Monday night. 

Saanich police issued a statement just before 10 p.m. saying several vehicles were involved in a crash that required police to close the road while tow trucks removed vehicles.

“Weather conditions are poor, with snow and ice reducing traction for drivers,” said Staff Sgt. Phil Davies.

Police are asking drivers to avoid travel unless essential and if driving to take extra care and reduce speed.

Tires should be appropriate for winter conditions and extra clearance should be given to tow truck operators and emergency workers, police said. 

Victoria police said the Lampson Street hill between Esquimalt Road and Old Esquimalt Road was "essentially impassable" on Monday night and two buses were stuck. 

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While you’re putting away those lawn chairs and garden tools, you might as well dig out your snow shovel.

And get out the boots and sidewalk salt while you’re at it.

Winter is coming fast to Vancouver Island.

Just 16 days after the end of record heat and a 115-day dry spell, a low-pressure system off the Island that’s drawing cold air from the Interior is bringing snow to parts of the Island.

Flurries started in the ­capital region at noon on Monday, and pockets of heavy snowfall from two to 10 centimetres are expected on the eastern side of the Island, from Nanaimo to Duncan, on the Malahat and in parts of Greater Victoria.

Residents of Campbell River woke up Monday to 12 centimetres that fell overnight. ­Zabellos had six centimetres and Heriot Bay four.

There were also ­dustings reported in Port Hardy and as far south as Chemainus.

Environment Canada forecasted periods of snow beginning late Monday to this morning for the eastern side of the Island, with as much as five to 10 centimetres accumulating along the Malahat between Goldstream and Mill Bay.

At Big O Tires in Victoria, there was a lineup down the block as drivers rushed in to have snow tires installed. “By the end of the day we’ll probably have a two-week wait,” ­manager Kevin Jensen said Monday. “We’re going pretty steady.”

School District 61 was ­keeping a close eye on dipping overnight temperatures and potential snow accumulations, saying it would inform parents of any potential school closures or school bus changes by early this morning, or sooner, at ­

Superintendent Deb Whitten said if conditions worsened overnight, the school district would make a determination about closures by 6:30 a.m. today to allow families time to adjust their plans.

The forecast for Greater Victoria called for rain and snow showers Monday evening, with snowfall of up to two centimetres. Winds from the northeast were expected to hit 30 km/h, gusting to 50, and up to 70 near Haro Strait.

Emcom Services, the ­company contracted to keep the roads clear over the Malahat, was preparing snow-removal equipment and topping up brine tanks to be used on the roadway.

Operations manager Andrew Gaetz said crews started applying brine to the Malahat last week.

About 10 centimetres of snow was expected at the summit and Gaetz said Emcom’s plow trucks were ready to go, loaded with salt and sand.

“It’s the first snow of the year, so we’ve been preparing,” he said.

“We ask drivers to slow down, keep their distance between other vehicles and if you see our equipment, give us the space.”

Environment Canada’s weather warning said drivers should be prepared for sudden changes in driving conditions, delays and reduced visibility.

B.C. Hydro crews, meanwhile, were investigating the cause of a power outage on Monday west of Sooke that affected 2,250 customers. Another outage in the afternoon saw 1,850 customers in East Sooke lose power.

Over the weekend, B.C. Hydro finished restoring power to about 330,000 customers on the Island after last week’s storm that brought heavy rainfall and high winds.

B.C. Ferries cancelled 18 sailings on Monday between Nanaimo’s Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay, as well as sailings out of its Langdale terminal, citing strong winds on the Strait of Georgia.

“The current sea state and high winds have made sailing from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay unsafe,” said B.C. Ferries.