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Snowstorm and strong winds cancel ferries, trigger crashes

Winds gusting from 70 to 90 kilometres an hour led B.C. Ferries to cancel sailings after 3 p.m., while thousands have been left without power due to the storm.

A storm that brought strong winds and snow to the Island on Tuesday saw ferry sailings cancelled, triggered several vehicle crashes and knocked out power to thousands.

Crews worked to secure a barge in a windswept Victoria Harbour Tuesday after one of its tow lines broke, sending it toward the Macaulay Point pump station and onto the beach.

The Capital Regional District said there appears to be no impact on the outfall in the area.

Winds gusting from 70 to 90 kilometres per hour led B.C. Ferries to cancel all sailings after 3 p.m. between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay. Sailings from Tsawwassen to Duke Point, Tsawwassen to Southern Gulf Islands, Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay and Comox to Powell River were cancelled, as well.

Snowy and icy roads led to a number of minor vehicle crashes and bus detours, with West Shore RCMP responding to three weather-related single-vehicle crashes from 8:30 to 9 a.m. None led to injuries.

The crashes included one on the Trans-Canada Highway just before the Thetis Lake exit, where a vehicle hit a patch of ice and spun into a barrier, while a heavy-duty pickup truck towing a trailer with an excavator went off the road at Sooke Road and West Shore Parkway, and a pickup truck slid into a barrier on Atkins Road.

It was a similar story in Saanich, where police dealt with five minor traffic incidents before 9 a.m., including one where a vehicle went into the ditch on West Saanich Road and one where a vehicle was unable to stop on a hill on Prospect Lake Road and collided with another vehicle. None of the occupants suffered serious injuries.

Environment Canada was forecasting up to five centimetres of snow in Greater Victoria, and as much as 20 centimetres at higher elevations from the Malahat to Campbell River. Snowfall, wind and winter storm warnings remained in place for much of the Island on Tuesday evening.

Inland Vancouver Island was expected to be the hardest hit, with accumulations of 15 to 25 cm before the snow was set to ease to a few flurries Wednesday morning. Snowfall forecast for other areas ranged from 5 cm in Greater Victoria to 10 to 15 cm on northern Vancouver Island.

As of 6:45 p.m. there were about 145 B.C. Hydro power outages on the Island, leaving 15,000 B.C. Hydro customers on the south Island, along with another 16,000 on the north Island. B.C. Hydro said customers on Hornby and Denman islands would be without power overnight as ferry cancellations meant crews could not get to the islands.

A tugboat tries to hook onto the Metlakatla I barge near McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Environment Canada says the snowfall and arctic air will persist through Wednesday morning.

Andrew Gatez, operations manager for Emcon Services, which services the south Island and Gulf Islands, said his crews have been salting highways and main roads since Monday and all major roads on Tuesday.

The City of Victoria opened a co-ed warming centre at the James Bay United Church, 511 Michigan St., on Monday night as temperatures dipped below freezing.

A low of –2 C is forecast for Thursday night, when snow is expected again.

B.C. Transit buses experienced delays in some areas, with a number of detours required in areas with steep inclines or declines, said spokesman Jamie Weiss.

“When conditions are like this, we typically see delays, so people can expect that it will take a little bit longer for the bus to get there and we ask for people’s patience, and for people to leave a little extra time during their transit journey,” he said.

On Bear Mountain, route 52 was not going beyond the roundabout on Millstream Road and Bear Mountain Parkway, and B.C. Transit was not able to serve Triangle Mountain and Tanner Ridge, Weiss said

Tanner Ridge is a concern because Tanner Road has a steep section on its approach to the Patricia Bay Highway, he said.

Weiss asked bus riders whose regular stop is on a hill to choose an alternate bus stop on level ground nearby, where it’s easier for buses to start and stop.

“Also if there’s poor visibility, like if there’s heavy snowfall or if it starts to get dark, if you see the bus coming, just give them a wave either with your hand or your phone just to indicate to the driver that you’re there.”

To minimize time spent waiting for a bus in the cold, riders can sign up for route-specific alerts via email at, Weiss said. Riders can also see bus arrival times with B.C. Transit’s NextRide technology, accessible via web browsers or smart mobile devices.

Environment Canada meteorologist Trevor Smith said snowfall on the Malahat was expected to transition to rain late Tuesday, while the transition from snow to rain at lower levels began Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday is expected to bring a “mixed bag” of sun and cloud, with rain showers and highs of 4 C, Smith said.

The Malahat could see a few centimetres of snow during the day, he said.

“Then Wednesday night and Thursday we’re going to see the Arctic air start to push out again from the Interior,” Smith said. “We’re going to get a little cooler and drier again for Thursday, and that sets us for Friday for another potential bout of snow.

“We’re not out of it this week, so watch out for Friday for the next kind of problem day for driving.”

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