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Travel advisory for Malahat, Sutton Pass; schools close as snow flies

As much as 15 centimetres is expected on the Trans-Canada Highway between Mill Bay and Langford and along the Alberni Summit near Port Alberni.
Highway 19 south of Campbell River on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. DRIVE B.C.

Drivers are being warned to avoid the Malahat and Sutton Pass near Port Alberni Friday, as heavy snowfall is expected to make road conditions treacherous. 

As much as 15 centimetres is expected on the Trans-Canada Highway between Mill Bay and Langford and along the Alberni Summit near Port Alberni. Drive B.C. is cautioning drivers to only travel those routes if it’s essential. 

Other parts of the eastern Island can also expect 10 to 15 centimetres of snow starting today and continuing into Saturday morning, according to Environment Canada. 

The Transportation Ministry said Friday that vehicles must be properly equipped for winter conditions and drivers should expect delays and traffic congestion due to slower travel speeds. 

Drivers should also be prepared for snow-tire inspections. 

All commercial vehicles must carry chains and all personal vehicles must have winter tires (M+S or mountain snowflake symbol) in good condition, according to the ministry. 

To ensure compliance, the ministry’s enforcement staff will be checking commercial vehicles northbound on the Trans-Canada Highway entering the Malahat at West Shore Parkway and vehicles southbound on the Malahat section at Butterfield Road, starting in the early afternoon. 

Drivers face $121 fines if their vehicles don’t have snow tires and are travelling the Malahat or other mountain passes between Oct. 1 and March 31. 

Meanwhile, students in the Campbell River and Comox Valley school districts got an early start to their weekend after classes were cancelled Friday because of snowfall. 

“This difficult decision was made out of an abundance of caution with student and staff safety in mind,” Comox Valley Schools said in a notice. “Many roads, side streets, pathways and routes into school for staff and students are not cleared or safe for travel.” 

North Island College also closed its Comox Valley, Campbell River and Port Alberni campuses on Friday. 

Heavy, wet snow is also expected around Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, Duncan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Courtenay and other communities, Environment Canada said. 

Drivers are being warned to expect traffic delays and slippery conditions, with the heaviest snowfall anticipated around the time of the afternoon commute. 

Up to two centimetres of snow was forecast for the capital region, although it was expected to turn to rain showers by afternoon, with an expected high of 4 C. 

ICBC said winter driving conditions over the past week have caused a huge spike in accident claims on the south coast. 

On Tuesday, claims were up by 94% (3,567) from the same day a week ago (1,837). 

With more snow expected in the days and weeks ahead, ICBC is asking drivers to slow down and adjust their driving to winter conditions and ensure their vehicles are prepared. 

Nanaimo could see Friday temperatures of minus 5 C with a minus 8 C wind chill, while Courtenay could get up to 2 C but with a -10 C wind chill in the morning. 

Port Hardy does not have a snow warning, but has a 60 per cent chance of flurries today, a forecast high of 2 C and a possible morning wind chill of -9 C. 

On Saturday, the capital region will see a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries, with a mix of sun and cloud in the forecast. Highs could reach 5 C. 

Maintenance contractors have been treating highways with brine in advance of the snowfall and have plows ready to manage accumulations. 

Drivers are asked to move over safely when they see a vehicle with an amber light approaching, allowing maintenance crews to clear the snow. 

Tow-truck drivers were kept busy removing several stuck and abandoned vehicles from the Malahat after heavy snowfall on Tuesday. 

For up-to-date information about road conditions, drivers should follow @DriveBC on Twitter and check

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