Coasters dig out after snow storm

Ian Jacques/Editor / Staff writer
February 28, 2014 01:00 AM

Lower Road, aka 'Heartbreak Hill,' claims another victim in Roberts Creek.

A three-day blast of winter created treacherous conditions on Coast roadways, knocked out power to thousands and forced early closures of schools this week.

Three days of snow from Saturday through Monday night left residents digging themselves out Tuesday morning and road crews and hydro workers stretched to the max trying their best to restore power and clear roadways.

On Monday evening, power went out to thousands of residents in Sechelt, Halfmoon Bay, Roberts Creek, Elphinstone and some parts of Gibsons due to downed lines after trees and branches, weighed down with heavy snow, came crashing down.

According to BC Hydro, some of the power was restored Tuesday morning with up to 2,000 residents in Sechelt, Roberts Creek and Gibsons still waiting for their power to be restored on Tuesday afternoon.

Capilano Highways was kept busy trying to keep Highway 101 clear and they got to side streets as soon as they could.

Vice-president Steve Drummond said once the snow stopped Monday night, crews started to get to the side streets and made that their focus all day Tuesday.

"The big thing was the unexpected snow and getting very mixed weather reports," Drummond said. "The weather did not change to rain when it was supposed to, and that caused some issues with planning crew times, but our crews worked around the clock."

Drummond said at the height of the storm there were six trucks working on Monday night and two more were brought over from the Lower Mainland with another six working throughout the day on Tuesday.

"Every area was different. Some had lots of snow, other areas not so much," he said. "Middlepoint, Madeira Park, Halfmoon Bay and some parts in Lower Gibsons were especially bad. The heavy snow did cause us some grief, and we were trying to navigate the downed trees, which also was a bit of an issue. But in general it went pretty well."

He said he was also generally impressed with how motorists travelled in the challenging conditions.

"We did encounter a few drivers who admitted they should have had snow tires, but overall, people were driving safe to the conditions."

Transit was affected on Monday and Tuesday morning with riders experiencing delays due to the road conditions.

HandyDart was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday, smaller buses were used on Highway 101 and Lower Road to Langdale on Monday and Tuesday, and a Sunshine Coast Regional District vehicle picked up passengers in Halfmoon Bay on Monday. By 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, transit had resumed its full schedule.

Sunshine Coast RCMP reported six accidents on Monday due to the storm, mostly in Gibsons and Roberts Creek.

According to Cpl. Steve Chubey, no injuries were reported. He said the cause of the accidents was drivers travelling with inadequate tires or travelling at speeds not relative to the conditions.

School District No. 46 (SD46) made the decision to keep schools open on Monday as buses could still travel most roads and the weather forecast predicted snow would stop in the afternoon.

Later that day, when it became apparent the snow wasn't subsiding, schools were closed one and a half hours early to ensure buses could pick up the students who made it to class.

"The challenge for us is first thing in the morning people want the information as soon as possible, but we also have to look at the roads, listen to the weather report, call people up and down the Coast and make a decision using the best information," said superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking, adding SD46 tries to post closure information on their website by 7 a.m.

"But for [Monday], the weather just kept going downhill, whereas that wasn't the forecast, but that's what happened, so then we had to roll the buses."

Chatelech Secondary School students got a phone call at home from the automatic dialing system on Monday, saying classes would be cancelled for the day, but shortly after that message was sent, another one came in saying the school was open.

Bocking said the mix up was due to a "communication issue" at the school but said it was corrected in "about 10 minutes."

On Tuesday, schools resumed their regular schedules, except for Cedar Grove Elementary School, which experienced a power outage overnight.

The power outage was fixed by noon, but the school needed time to warm up before students could return to class.

- With files from Christine Wood


© Coast Reporter

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