Snow began falling on B.C.’s South Coast Tuesday afternoon and, combined with high outflow winds in the forecast, could create hazardous driving conditions across much of southwestern B.C.

Low-lying areas like Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey and Langley can expect 10-15 centimetres of snow overnight, Environment Canada said in a slew of weather warnings, while higher elevation areas like North Vancouver, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge could see up to 20 centimetres. For Richmond and Delta, 5-10 centimetres of snow is expected. 

Up to 25 centimetres of snow is forecast for inland parts of Vancouver Island, with around 5-10 centimetres in southern areas. Strong southeast winds through the Strait of Georgia, gusting up to 90 km/h, are expected. The Sunshine Coast is looking at 10-15 centimetres with winds of up to 80 km/h. 

Environment Canada also issued winter storm warnings for highway routes including the Sea to Sky, the Coquihalla and the Okanagan Connector, saying heavy snow and strong winds could create near-zero visibility at times. 

As of 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, travel advisories were in effect for many of B.C.’s highways, according to DriveBC.

The snow is expected to taper off or switch to rain by Wednesday morning, potentially causing slippery roads and poor visibility.

Yimei Li, a meteorologist with the federal weather agency, says snow will be accompanied Wednesday morning by strong winds with gusts ranging between 40 and 70 km/h,  and recommends avoiding all non-essential travel Tuesday evening and Wednesday.

“If it changes from snow to rain the results will be quite messy. Tomorrow morning we’re looking at some really high impact weather for the Lower Mainland,” Li said. 

Snow weighing down branches in combination with wind gusts could cause tree branches to break. 

“The best thing to do is stay at home or stay sheltered during this time. Travelling during a snowstorm is very dangerous,” Li said. 

Several flights leaving Vancouver and Abbotsford airports Tuesday and Wednesday have already been cancelled in anticipation of rough weather. Vancouver International Airport is asking travellers to leave extra time to get to the airport and check with airlines for updated flight information. 

On Tuesday evening, more than 14,000 people on Vancouver Island were without power, according to B.C. Hydro.

City crews prepare for snow

Crews began applying salt and brine to Metro Vancouver highways Tuesday morning to prepare for the snow. 

Mainroad, the company contracted by B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to clear snow, says staff are also patrolling and ready to start plowing as soon as snow starts hitting the ground. 

“Our crews work 24/7, so they’re out there all the time watching road conditions and making sure that it’s safe,” said Darren Ell, general manager of Mainroad. 

Ell warned drivers to avoid travel unless their vehicle is prepared and they are comfortable driving in the snow. 

“If you come across a plow, just stay behind them. They go slow, but they’re out there making the roads safe, it’s the best place to be. Stay back, don’t pass,” said Ell. 

The City of Vancouver says its crews are monitoring and salting major roads, bus routes, bridges, sidewalks and streets adjacent to hospitals.

“We’re feeling really prepared for the weather,” said Amy Sidwell, manager of street operations. 

Sidwell said residential streets are not salted or plowed by the city, with the exception of access routes to schools or hospitals and some steep hills. 

TransLink is in communication with municipalities to ensure routes are plowed, spokesperson Dan Mountain told a news conference on Tuesday.

Mountain said crews are out applying de-icer to trolly wires and power rails, and they have replaced several 60-feet articulated buses with 40-feet buses, which he said are more agile in the snow. 

“We’re going to be communicating out to customers as soon as we know of any delays. Right now, the system is running really well.”

Mountain said people can sign up for transit alerts, check Translink’s Twitter account or call the customer information line at 604-953-3333 to get updated information. 

Clothes donations wanted

The cold snap has prompted the opening of warming centres in Vancouver and other cities in the region, in addition to regular temporary winter shelters. 

In Vancouver, additional overnight warming centres opened Monday evening at Powell Street Getaway in the Downtown Eastside and at Marpole Neighbourhood House in South Vancouver. An additional warming centre at the Odd Fellows Hall in Fairview will open at 9:30 p.m. PT Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM) is gearing up to offer shelter to more people amid cold weather. 

“Our biggest concern is always for our community members and trying to make sure that there are spaces for them to go inside,” said UGM spokesperson Nicole Mucci. 

Mucci said people wanting to help can donate winter gear to the UGM on 601 East Hastings St. They are in need of items like waterproof jackets, pants, gloves, toques, scarves, and heat packs. 

“Even if folks are able to get to a shelter at night it doesn’t always warm up in the day so you still need that gear to stay warm.”

This content was originally published here.