BC Ferries cancels all afternoon sailings on major routes in anticipation of high winds | CBC News

BC Ferries cancels all afternoon sailings on major routes in anticipation of high winds | CBC News

BC Ferries has cancelled all sailings on major routes linking the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island from 3 p.m. PT in anticipation of high winds later Wednesday.

Routes leaving Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, Duke Point, Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay are affected.

Environment Canada has issued weather warnings or special weather statements for Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the southern Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast.

Winds measuring between 70 and 90 km/h are in the forecast. BC Ferries has said it cannot sail in high winds because docking becomes dangerous.

Persistent snow, high winds and bitterly cold temperatures on B.C.'s South Coast have created travel chaos across the region this week.

On Wednesday, the provincial government in B.C. asked people in the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island to stay home, avoid driving and reconsider transit if they can Wednesday after a blast of snow created perilous road conditions.

Classes have been cancelled in every school district across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. A number of districts on southern Vancouver Island are also closed. Canada Post has suspended delivery for the day in several areas of B.C. including the Metro Vancouver area, the Fraser Valley and Greater Victoria.

Here's what else you need to know.

Travelling by road

Roads across the region are covered in snow and dangerously slippery. The province is asking drivers to avoid all travel unless absolutely essential.

Highway 1 in the Fraser Valley has been hit especially hard with snow. Abbotsford police asked motorists to avoid all highway travel between Chilliwack and Abbotsford due to “extreme whiteout conditions.” A department spokesperson described the highway as “a train wreck.”

Cars struggle through whiteout conditions on Boundary Road between Burnaby and Vancouver after heavy snowfall Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In Howe Sound, forecasters are warning of blowing snow, visibility near zero and hurricane force winds of 85-100 km/h early Wednesday, increasing by the late afternoon to 100-120 km/h. A freezing spray warning is also in effect.

The Sea to Sky Highway was shut down south of Porteau Cove for several hours due to a vehicle incident.

A number of vehicles struggled on snowy hills across the South Coast overnight:

A number of cars spun out on snowy hills across Metro Vancouver after overnight whiteout conditions on Jan. 15, 2020 created treacherous, slippery road conditions. 0:22

Visibility will be limited on the Coquihalla Highway, the Okanagan Connector, and Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon. Heavy snow has been falling and is expected to pick up in ferocity again Wednesday afternoon into Thursday. 

A travel advisory also applies to Vancouver Island on Highway 1 from Nanaimo south to Victoria, as well as Highways 14, 17 and 18.

Transit

TransLink said service will be “significantly slower” across the region's transit system on Wednesday. A number of SkyTrain stations were briefly shut down, as was the entire Canada Line.

Train service will be crowded and service has been delayed. Ice buildup preventing doors from closing properly is an issue — one attendant at Commercial-Broadway station in Vancouver was walking around with a plastic hockey stick, using it to knock ice off the train.

For now, SkyTrain is running larger trains to increase capacity, but those trains run at a reduced frequency.

Ice was building up on the inside of SkyTrain doors on Wednesday. Ice buildup means doors can't close properly, leading to delays across the region. (Jason Farmer/Twitter)

Buses struggle in the snow and often get stuck. Passengers on at least one hilly route in Coquitlam, B.C., abandoned their bus early Wednesday in favour of trudging through the snow.

“Customers are asked to consider whether they need to travel today, and if there is a need, whether they could consider travelling outside of rush hours, as commutes will take significantly longer than usual,” read a statement from the transit authority on Wednesday morning.

Passengers abandoned a TransLink bus stuck in the snow on Austin Avenue in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday morning. (Nathan Pachal/Twitter)

More than a dozen buses were stuck on Granville Street near West 6 Avenue on Wednesday morning. (Mike McDonald)

Schools, universities shut down

Every school district in the Lower Mainland, from the Fraser-Cascade district in the eastern Fraser Valley to West Vancouver, cancelled classes Wednesday due to the conditions. A number of school districts on Vancouver Island, including the Greater Victoria District, were also closed for the day.

As well as elementary and high schools, the following post-secondary institutions are also closed:

  • UBC (classes at Point Grey campus cancelled).
  • Simon Fraser University.
  • BCIT.
  • University of the Fraser Valley.
  • Vancouver Community College (classes cancelled; students advised to check school website).
  • Capilano University.
  • Kwantlen University.
  • Trinity Western University (classes cancelled at Langley and Richmond campuses)

A man carries his luggage with plastic bags covering his shoes after a heavy snowfall in Burnaby, B.C., on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Air travel 

A number of flights in and out of Vancouver International Airport, mostly between B.C. and Alberta, are cancelled this morning as snow continues to fall over the airport. Passengers are advised to check the airport's website for details on their flight before leaving home.

Return to rain by Friday

Forecasters said Friday will be the “transition day” away from snowy weather on the South Coast. Bitterly cold, snowy air is expected to shift back to seasonal downpours.

Parts of the region can expect around 40 millimetres of rain on Friday, which isn't good news given the amount of snow the area has seen this week. Rain-soaked snow weighs heavily on structures, particularly weaker ones like sheds and outbuildings. Dense, saturated snow could also down power lines and and cause outages.

A pedestrian walks through Burnaby after heavy snow Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)