Yes, Island snow really is more treacherous

The snow that falls on Vancouver Island creates more treacherous road conditions than the fluffy flakes in colder climates, and Islanders should brace for more of it, says an Environment Canada meteorologist.

The difference is due to the relatively mild winter temperatures on the Island, which bring compact, slushy snow, said meteorologist Matt MacDonald.

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“Snow on the south coast is a challenging thing, and not only because we’re not used to it, but also because of the nature of the snow,” he said. “Wet, greasy snow leads to very slippery travel conditions.”

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for much of Vancouver Island on Monday afternoon, forecasting more snow through the week.

MacDonald said the stretch between Nanaimo and Qualicum Beach is expected to see the biggest dump, with five to 10 centimetres falling overnight.

The region should get a break during the day Tuesday, but five to 10 centimetres is expected to fall Tuesday night.

“As if that wasn’t enough, it’s a 1-2-3 sequence. The third system approaches on Thursday night,” MacDonald said. “We could see even more snow Thursday night into Friday.”

Thursday’s system could bring strong winds and blowing snow, leading to difficult driving on highways and potentially more ferry cancellations.

“The good news is that the ski resorts — including Mount Washington — are in for plenty more snow. I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked up 30 to 50 centimetres by the end of the week,” he said.

The cold spell is expected to break on Friday, bringing the return of more typical temperatures and rain, MacDonald said.

Rain on top of snow could “make things messy,” he said, clogging storm drains and weighing down outdoor structures such as sheds and carports.

MacDonald suggested clearing the snow off roofs to avoid any damage.

He urged drivers to reduce their speeds to half the posted speed limit or less and to look for weather updates from Environment and Climate Change Canada on Twitter (@ECCCWeatherBC).

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure recommends checking the weather forecast and choosing alternate routes or postponing travel if possible.

It also encourages drivers to check DriveBC.ca or @DriveBC_VI on Twitter for current road conditions.

Drivers on the coast were discovering the dangers of snow on Monday, with crashes across the Island.

Nine vehicles collided or went off the road in separate incidents on a slippery section of the Patricia Bay Highway near Haliburton Road on Monday morning.

About 6 a.m., Saanich police responded to reports that two cars were in the ditch. They arrived to find a third had slid off the road.

While the officers were at the scene, another vehicle left the highway, causing two vehicles to collide. An additional three vehicles went into the ditch while police were present.

Police believe black ice and snow were responsible for the dangerous conditions.

Saanich police responded to two other reports of cars sliding off the road Monday. No one was injured in any of the incidents.

In Nanaimo, RCMP responded to several crashes, including a five-vehicle fender bender at Selby Street and Victoria Road. No injuries were reported.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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