Winds ease, but cold and snow hit Vancouver Island

Greater Victoria was hit with a light snowfall last night and temperatures have dipped to minus 4 C this morning.

But residents can look forward to a break from the strong winds that have cancelled ferries for three consecutive days.

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Winds were expected to die down Sunday night, said Eric Mak, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Freezing temperatures are expected overnight and the region could see two to four centimetres of snow on Monday, he said.

“This is the first true Arctic outbreak” of the year, Mak said, adding it’s common for Greater Victoria to experience winter weather like this a couple of times a year.

Classes in the Cowichan Valley school district have been cancelled due to icy winter weather and driving conditions. However, schools in most districts are open Monday, despite the snow.

“The decision to close or cancel is made by the superintendent with advice from our transportation and facilities departments as well as RCMP, Environment Canada, etc.,” said Stephanie Sherlock, spokeswoman for the Sooke School District.

B.C. Transit is warning customers to expect trip delays and cancellations due to weather and road conditions today. Due to problems with its website today, B.C. Transit is advising customers looking for information on delays and cancellations to call their local transit office or check NextRide.

The City of Victoria is ready with snow-clearing equipment and crews were expected to begin salting major roads Sunday afternoon and evening.

Brian Murphy, assistant director of public works, said the city’s focus will be on priority routes.

“We want to remind everyone you will encounter snow and ice in an event like this on residential streets. We can’t respond to residential streets until well after snow has stopped falling and we’ve cleared main routes,” he said.

Murphy urged residents to adjust their driving to the conditions, consider ditching the car in favour of alternate means of transport, and leave extra time to get around the city.

A statement by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure echoed Murphy’s message, reminding drivers they are responsible for adjusting speeds to match road conditions.

The ministry said maintenance contractors serving the Island are ready for the expected winter blast.

“If necessary, they will be in 24-7 mode and hire additional private trucks and equip them with plows and sanders to tackle the conditions,” the statement read. “Even with all those resources working to clear the roads, it isn’t realistic to expect the roads to be bare and black during a storm.”

Downed power lines brought outages to thousands of residents across the Island over the weekend, including more than 2,500 in Langford.

A fallen tree and downed hydro line closed a section of the Westshore Parkway from Sooke Road and Commander Court around 6:15 p.m., according to Langford Fire Rescue. B.C. Hydro was on scene, but did not have an estimate on when the road would reopen.

The utility issued alerts Sunday evening for the Island, saying high winds had caused a number of outages.

About 70 customers on Hornby Island who lost power shortly after 6 p.m. will be in the dark overnight. B.C. Hydro said crews hoped to arrive on site by 10 a.m. Monday.

B.C. Hydro said the company was prepared for the weather forecast, with managers on-call.

They are advising customers to be prepared with an emergency kit in case of a long outage. They suggest stocking a flashlight and batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, warm clothes and blankets, and ensuring mobile devices are fully charged.

“At the end of the day, we don’t know what will happen. It’s always up to Mother Nature,” said spokesmanTed Olynyk.

As of 7:30 a.m. Monday, no B.C. Ferries sailings had been cancelled.

Cancellations continued Sunday on all major B.C. Ferries routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. All sailings after 9 a.m. were cancelled, with the next available departure on major routes listed as to be determined for much of the day.

Around 6:30 p.m., the company said all remaining departures on the routes were cancelled.

Spokesperson Chelsea Carlson said it’s not uncommon to see wind-related cancellations in January, but “this has been a particularly bad storm.”

The company added one round trip between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen on Monday: an 8 a.m. departure from Swartz Bay and a 10 a.m. sailing out of Tsawwassen.

Carlson said B.C. Ferries had been getting the word out to customers about the cancellations, but major terminals were still busy with people lining up.

Up-to-date information on travel advisories can be found online.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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