UPDATE: Snowfall leaves communities cut off, thousands without power on Vancouver Island

Tuesday’s dump of snow has cut power to nearly 10,000 homes in Victoria and Duncan

This morning’s snowfall cut off a handful of Vancouver Island communities from the rest and left thousands dealing with power outages.

Sooke Road was closed in both directions for three hours as weather conditions and hydro lines down cut Sooke off from Greater Victoria. Meanwhile, drivers travelling eastbound to Parksville-Qualicum Beach from Port Alberni were forced to turn back due to semi-trucks stuck in both uphill lanes on The Hump.

Commercial truck drivers can expect delays of up to 30 minutes, but passenger traffic is once again moving over the Port Alberni summit. DriveBC reported at 9:22 a.m. Tuesday that trucks will be delayed as RCMP check for snow tires and chains. About an hour earlier, two semi tractor-trailer rigs were stopped side-by-side in the eastbound lanes between Port Alberni. Westbound traffic was slowed while negotiating around the blockage, and many eastbound commuters turned around to return to Port Alberni.

There are multiple trees down between Cathedral Grove and The Hump. The trees have been cut or pushed aside by plows, but there are still some occasional branches on the road surface.

Sooke Road reopened around 11 a.m. after a closure starting around Kangaroo Road began at approximately 8 a.m. this morning, according to the Drive B.C. website, leaving no detour routes available.

Sooke RCMP tweeted that the road conditions are still poor, and to give extra time and space while driving.Sooke RCMP tweeted that the road conditions are still poor, and to give extra time and space while driving.

The Cowichan and Qualicum School Districts are letting kids go home early today due to worsening weather conditions in the area.

In a statement released mid-morning, Cowichan says all schools will remain open and staffed until all the children have been picked up or are safely on a bus. School buses will begin running at 11:30 a.m. and students can be picked up from school at any time.

Qualicum closed five area schools Dec. 19 due to power outages and announced all other SD69 sites will be dismissed 2.5 hours early.

Sooke district schools did not open this morning and will remain closed until tomorrow.

BC Hydro is dealing with multiple outages in multiple communities, including Greater Victoria, the Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo and the Parksville area. Victoria International Airport Tweeted shortly after 9:30 a.m. that it was without power as well.

“All available resources are out working to restore power as quickly as possible but difficult conditions and extensive damage mean that some customers may experience longer outage durations,” said a statement on the BC Hydro website.

Karla Lowers, spokesperson for B.C. Hydro, says the weather is currently affecting 52,000 of their customers, 11,000 of which are without power in Greater Victoria.

Approximately 1,500 people were in the dark earlier this morning in East Sooke and another 3,000 are without power in Langford and the other West Shore communities. Many of the causes are still said to be under investigation, but a tree down across some wires is responsible for at least one of the outages.

Heading north over the Malahat, another 1,300 customers are affected in the Cowichan Bay area and a further 700 are without power east of Duncan towards Lake Cowichan. There is also a power outage in Shawnigan Lake affecting another 744 homes.

As of 10 a.m. more than a dozen outages were reported by B.C. Hydro from north Nanaimo to Cedar and Yellow Point that left more than 9,700 customers without electricity, including some schools, for snow-related causes including branches and trees falling across power lines.

Thousands of customers in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area were also without power.

“It’s typical south coast, heavy, wet snow and it’s causing us a lot of grief,” said Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro spokesman. “What’s causing the outages is trees coming down on the lines.”

Olynyk said B.C. Hydro has a full contingent of hydro and contractor crews out repairing damage, but how long it will take to restore power to all customers depends on the weather.

“At the end of the day it all depends on what Mother Nature has in store for us, how much snow we get, how heavy it is and how wet it is,” Olynyk said.

YYJ is running on emergency power, but flight operations had not been affected as of midmorning.

Crews are clearing the wet snow from entrance roads and walkways. Airport staff recommend checking their website to stay updated on potential flight delays or cancellations.

Nanaimo Airport, meanwhile, is experiencing delays and cancellations.

According to Nanaimo Airport’s website, the Air Canada 10:35 a.m. flight to Vancouver and WestJet 11:09 a.m. flight to Calgary were among those cancelled. A 12:38 p.m. WestJet flight to Vancouver has also been canceleld.

Mike Hooper, airport president and CEO, said the airport’s website, www.nanaimoairport.com, has a live feed, as well as flight information, and it changes based on the conditions, Hooper said.

“We did have full services this morning leaving,” said Hooper. “We had three aircraft here overnight and they all left and then it’s really going to be dependent on the storm, when conditions come back to normal. I would estimate within the next 24 hours we’ll be back to normal.”

Hooper recommends travellers flying out on the West Coast should reach out to the airport website and air carriers to determine best options.

“We appreciate the patience of people travelling in a snow storm,” said Hooper. “It does become very wary on people travelling.”

The disruption is not limited to the air. Traffic is slow going in many areas as well.

Bear Mountain Parkway was closed until further notice as a tree has fallen on the road and cars are getting stuck on the way up. West Shore RCMP are on scene. Power lines are down on Cairndale Road in Colwood as well.

Saanich Police report heavy snow around the areas of West Saanich Road and Prospect Lake Road and the snow is accumulating on the roads quickly. Other areas of Saanich are also experiencing flurries and/or heavy rain at this time and caution should be used as water and slush accumulate and cause slippery conditions.

Police are warning drivers “not to be a hero” and to stay at home if possible.

Motorists are required to have winter tires when travelling on designated highways around the province. These are marked with signs which are generally posted as motorists approach highway mountain passes or highways that see significant winter conditions or where there is a substantial increase in elevation.

Tires that meet this criteria are those labelled with either the mountain snowflake symbol or the mud and snow (M+S) symbol. These symbols are located on the sidewall of the tire. Tires must also be in good condition with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm.

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure put out a reminder Tuesday morning for drivers to make sure their cars are equipped with proper tires.

Fat, wet snow was the order of the morning, as the dump carved a path from Sooke to Langford, Cowichan, Ladysmith, Nanaimo and up to Parksville. Port Alberni started to see flakes around 9 a.m., with accumulations on the Hump. Victoria, the Comox Valley and Campbell River seem to have been hit the least so far, with North Island VI Free Daily readers reporting sunny skies.

Environment Canada issued a snowfall warning in effect for east Vancouver Island from Nanoose Bay to Fanny Bay as of 8:39 a.m. Tuesday (Dec. 19).

The weather alert states there will be snow throughout the day and into the night. Ten centimetres of snow is expected near sea level and up to 20 cm is expected in higher terrain throughout the day. The alert also states another two to five centimetres is expected this evening.

For more information about where power outages are happening, their causes and estimated times power will be restored, visit BC Hydro’s website.

Visit drivebc.ca for updates on road conditions.

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