Snow day: rash of crashes, Malahat whiteout, Zamboni pulled over

Update: One man was so frustrated with snow-covered roads that he took matters into his own hands, with the help of a Zamboni.

Central Saanich police pulled over the man driving a Zamboni on Central Saanich Road near Tanner Ridge Place around 8 p.m. on Monday. The machine is designed to resurface ice rinks, but he was trying to use it to clear snow.

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The man, a Central Saanich farmer, had bought the used Zamboni for $300, said Central Saanich Sgt. Paul Brailey. He usually keeps it on his farm. “He saw the snow hadn't been cleared there and he was trying to clear the snow," Brailey said.

Unfortunately, the Zamboni cleared the top layer of snow but flattened the bottom layer, which, if the temperatures dip low enough, could turn into, well, an ice rink.

"I think his intentions were good, I think he was trying to make a difference," Brailey said.

Public works was called to clear the snow he left behind, using the proper snow clearing equipment.

Brailey said the man was escorted back to his property on the Zamboni.

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Most B.C. Transit routes in Greater Victoria were running normally on Tuesday, though the icy roads might cause delays. 

Snowfall on Monday night forced B.C. Transit to cancel at least 11 routes; at least 18 routes had to make detours to avoid treacherous streets, especially areas with hills.

Routes cancelled for Monday night were 2, 11, 16, 28, 30, 35, 53, 54, 55, 59, and 60.

Details are on the B.C. Transit website.


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Heavy snow and near blizzard conditions on southern Vancouver Island wreaked havoc on all forms of transportation Monday.

Aircraft, cars, buses and transport trucks were all delayed by weather conditions as snow fell through the day, with heavy snow coming late in the afternoon.

Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning for Greater Victoria, advising that it would be worse on the Malahat.

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation said that heavy snowfall caused whiteout conditions on the Malahat in the afternoon. Drivers reported around 3:30 p.m. that northbound traffic was stalled with some cars slipping backwards.

A car driving too fast for the wintry conditions skidded off the slick roads and plunged 20 feet down a ravine in Cobble Hill.

Shawnigan Lake RCMP, Cowichan Bay Volunteer firefighters and B.C. Ambulance responded to the 3800 block of Cobble Hill Road just before noon to find the car down an embankment, said Fire Chief Charles Brown.

First responders climbed down the embankment, open the driver’s door and help a woman up to the roadway, Brown said. The driver was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

“When you’re sitting around the zero-degree mark, this is probably one of the worst times for traction,” Brown said.

Another vehicle incident north of Goldstream Park around 4:30 p.m. caused delays for drivers on the Trans Canada.

Shawnigan Lake RCMP advised anyone travelling over the Malahat to slow down, by as much as 20 km/h depending on conditions and leave lots of room between cars.

Harbour Air was grounded Monday as snow ruled the skies. “We lost the day today,” said Harbour Air executive vice-president Randy Wright. About 100 flights are grounded coast-wide when they shut down completely.

Harbour Air had been shut down on Friday and Saturday but managed to get morning flights into the air on Sunday before shutting down again in the afternoon.

Aircraft at Victoria International Airport had better luck Monday, but not much.

James Bogusz, vice-president of airport operations, said more than a dozen flights were cancelled and at least 50 per cent of flights that managed to get away were delayed.

“There’s lots of snow at YYJ and lots of delays and cancellations today. The snow is having a big impact on travel,” he said. “Believe it or not though, the runway conditions here are pretty good but a lot of the backlog at Vancouver and Seattle is causing lots of grief for passengers getting in and out.”

Roads all over Greater Victoria were a mess Monday with police forces reporting several minor collisions.

Victoria police asked drivers to “consider not driving” Monday afternoon when the heavy snow started to stick to the ground. “As temps cool it will get even more slick out there,” they said on Twitter.

Earlier in the day in Oak Bay, a car lost control on slippery roads at the corner of Haultain and Epworth streets around 9:15 a.m. and struck a fire hydrant, which caused a geyser of water to spill onto the streets, flooding several basements.

“A single vehicle lost control coming down the hill and struck a hydrant, knocking the hydrant off the water main,” said Oak Bay Fire Assistant Chief Gord Marshall.

A substantial amount of water gushed from the line, flowing down the road and into the basements of four homes on Epworth, Marshall said.

Oak Bay public works employees were on scene quickly and isolated the hydrant, cutting off the flow of water to prevent further damage. Firefighters pumped out one basement and used water vacuums to remove water from the other three homes.

Victoria police responded to two crashes Monday morning as a result of the slick conditions.

One car lost control on Esquimalt Road but the driver was uninjured. Around 10:30 a.m., two cars collided in a rear-ender in the 2600-block of Douglas Street, resulting in minor injuries to one person.

Just before 4 p.m., West Shore RCMP responded to a vehicle that flipped in the ditch on Sooke Road near Humpback Road. Three people in the car were uninjured.

The City of Victoria reported it started brining roads and plowing on Sunday to keep roads clear.

City officials reminded residents that it is a homeowner’s responsibility to keep the sidewalk in front of their residence clear of snow. Failure to do so can mean a fine of up to $125.

But on Monday night, snow was falling so fast and so heavily, residents in many parts of the region couldn't keep up with the onslaught, finding their driveways quickly filling with snow shortly after they shovelled. On one Oak Bay street, residents were out by the dozen clearing their sidewalks, some for the second or third time in the day.

Ryan Coney, manager of Totem Towing, reported they had more than 110 calls — mostly minor accidents and cars off the road — before noon on Monday. Normally the company handles 175 to 200 calls per day.

In Nanaimo, snow clearing crews were out with all available snow equipment on the road, and the city ordered another 600 tonnes of road salt.

To prepare for the big dump of snow crews started brining roads last Thursday and have been plowing and salting priority routes continually since 6 a.m. Friday. Crews will be moving onto secondary routes and residential areas as weather conditions allow.

“Crews are working in the residential areas now, they will continue to do so until the weather moves them back to the priority routes,” said David Myles, Nanaimo’s manager of roads and traffic services. “We are anticipating more heavy snowfall this afternoon and into the evening. Please use care and caution when driving on snow covered roads.”

B.C. Transit warned passengers in Victoria that road conditions could cause some buses to run behind schedule. Seven routes in Greater Victoria were adjusted because of weather.

Schools in School District 63 were closed Monday, mostly affecting students on the Saanich Peninsula. Gulf Islands schools were also closed, along with Pacific Christian in Saanich and Queen Margaret’s in Duncan.

Camosun College cancelled evening classes at both campuses.

Saying winter conditions made some roads too icy and unsafe for its trucks, the Capital Regional District cancelled blue box collection in Dean Park.

Affected residents were advised to hold onto their recyclables until Feb. 11.

The Greater Victoria school district cancelled all evening rentals of its facilities.

Snowfall is expected to continue into Tuesday morning. Warmer weather is forecast beginning Thursday.

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