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Arctic outflow warnings issued for parts of Vancouver Island; wind chill could be near -20 C

While the snow may be good news for sledders, police reported “degrading road conditions” throughout the capital region, creating less-than-ideal driving conditions. 

Snowfall and below freezing temperatures on Vancouver Island Sunday came with multiple weather warnings ,including an advisory about hazardous road conditions and a caution for drivers to avoid unnecessary travel.

While the snow was good news for people enjoying snow sports and children sledding in Beacon Hill Park, various green spaces and even city streets, Saanich police reported “degrading road conditions” throughout the capital region Sunday, creating less-than-ideal driving conditions.

“Avoid driving unless necessary as icy roads and snow continue to build up on all roadways,” advised Saanich Const. Spencer Loverock.

Environment Canada updated an Arctic outflow warning Sunday at 4 p.m. for Greater Victoria and eastern Vancouver Island forecasting wind chill values as low as -20 C — near record cold temperatures — through Wednesday.

An Arctic ridge of high pressure over the B.C. Interior will bring “strong and bitterly cold outflow winds” to coastal communities beginning Sunday night, said the national weather forecaster. The outflow winds will create wind chill values of -20 and lower. Mainland inlets and areas are more likely to experience these very cold wind chill values.

Overnight temperatures of -8 C are forecast for Greater Victoria and Nanaimo while Campbell River is expected to dip to -12 C.

Environment Canada also issued a snowfall warning advising that an “unstable air mass” and colder outflow winds would bring further accumulations of snow. That warning was lifted just before 11 a.m. in Greater Victoria and the Gulf Island and about 6 p.m. on the eastern Island.

The weather forecaster is advising Islanders to adjust their driving as “rapidly accumulating snow will make travel difficult.” Another 5 cm of snow is forecast to fall over the Malahat portion of the Trans-Canada Highway from Goldstream to Mill Bay.

Drive B.C. has issued a winter driving advisories for Highway 17 from Victoria to North Saanich, Highway 14 between Metchosin and Sooke, several points along the Trans-Canada Highway between the West Shore and Chemainus, including the Malahat. Travel is not recommended unless absolutely necessary.

Several B.C. Transit routes in Greater Victoria have detours due to the snow.

The Victoria Harbour Cats baseball team, on its official Twitter page, offered to get vulnerable seniors, fans and supporters, to essential destinations using its four-wheel-drive vehicle.

More than 1,000 B.C. Hydro customers in the central Island were without power early Sunday morning. By 5:30 p.m. a few hundred customers were without power in Courtenay and Qualicum Beach as well as more than 200 in Duncan.

An Extreme Weather Alert in effect for Greater Victoria prompted the extra shelter spaces opened up extra shelter spaces in the region including at the Salvation Army’s ARC at 525 Johnson Street in Victoria from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the Sooke Shelter at 6750 West Coast Road from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. .

The cold weather also saw the City of Victoria open a warming centre at the James Bay United Church at 511 Michigan St. from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until Dec. 29.

An emergency warming centre has also been opened in Campbell River. It will operate from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. nightly until Dec. 30.

Meanwhile, bird lovers are reminding residents with hummingbird feeders to keep them filled and unfrozen. The B.C. SPCA advises feeders that are left empty or left to freeze can lead to starvation for the birds that have come to rely on them.

“If you commit to winter feeding, you must commit fully,” says the SPCA website. Non-migratory hummingbirds may come to rely on this food source and will suffer if it is interrupted.

In current freezing temperatures, its advised to bring your feeder in overnight to prevent freezing and put it back out first thing in the morning or alternate between two feeders.

More to come

ceharnett@timescolonist.com