(This story has been updated to include ferry cancellations, government office and recreation facility closures)
Sunshine Coast residents awoke to a major snowfall Wednesday, with wind and winter storm warnings in effect for the whole region and a blizzard warning in place for Howe Sound.
The prospect of high winds led BC Ferries to cancel sailings on several routes, including Langdale-Horseshoe Bay, starting with the 3:15pm sailing leaving Langdale. As of noon Wednesday the winds at Pam Rocks in Howe Sound were NNW 50 knots (93 km/h) with gusts up to 58 knots (107 km/h).
Drive BC said that, as of 2:15 p.m., Highway 101 was slushy with slippery sections north of Sechelt and there were slushy sections between Sechelt and Langdale as light snow continued to fall.
School District No. 46 closed all schools to students and staff. “The overnight snow fall has created an unsafe condition for our school buses, staff and family vehicles. The forecast indicates that we may have significant snow fall tonight as well,” the school district said in an early morning announcement.
Capilano University’s Sunshine Coast Campus was also closed, as were the Gibsons and Sechelt public libraries.
Sunshine Coast Transit said weather was impacting the following routes as of 1:30 p.m.
Route 1 – No service on Flume, Beach or Lower Rd., no service to North Rd or Langdale Heights.
Chaster Loop and Lower Gibsons are now open.
Route 90 – Servicing Highway 101 to Langdale via the bypass, no service on North Rd.
Route 2 – Now in full service.
Route 3 – Now in service except no service on Marine Way.
Route 4 – Closed in both directions.
The Sunshine Coast Regional District closed its Field Road office as well as the Gibsons and Area Community Centre, Gibsons Pool, Sunshine Coast Arena, Pender Harbour Aquatic and Fitness Centre and Sechelt Aquatic Centre.
The Sechelt Landfill and Pender Harbour Transfer Station were also closed.
The District of Sechelt closed its municipal hall and cancelled the Jan. 15 council meeting and a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The items on the council agenda will be dealt with at the next meeting, Feb. 5.
Gibsons municipal hall stayed open for much of the day, but closed early.
Environment Canada meteorologist Bobby Sekhon said early this week that Monday and Tuesday would likely be the coldest days this week, with temperatures rebounding on Wednesday. Overall, Sekhon described the current weather picture as “unsettled” and so far no records have been broken.
Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning around 4 p.m. calling for an additional five to 10 centimetres of snow.
The entire Sunshine Coast was also under a wind warning.
“A deep low pressure system will cross Vancouver Island Wednesday night. Ahead of the low, southeast winds of 70 to 90 km/h will develop in Greater Victoria early in the evening and spread to the Southern Gulf Islands, East Vancouver Island - Duncan to Nanaimo, southern and western sections of Metro Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast later in the evening,” Environment Canada said. “Winds will shift abruptly to the southwest late overnight or Thursday morning in the wake of the low with gusty winds.”
Forecasters said the wind could be strong enough to cause damage, and will be even more severe in the Howe Sound area, where a blizzard warning is in effect.
“Cold arctic air will continue to funnel through Howe Sound producing strong northerly winds of 90 to 110 km/h near Bowen Island today and tonight,” according to Environment Canada.
RCMP have been advising drivers to be prepared for winter conditions and ensure their vehicles are as well and to avoid unnecessary travel. There have been no major weather-related accidents reported, but several cars have gone off slippery side roads since the winter weather system moved into the region over the weekend.
RainCity Housing’s shelters in Gibsons, at 464 South Fletcher Road and in Sechelt, at 5653 Wharf Avenue are open as usual.
Both the Town of Gibsons and District of Sechelt have been reminding property owners of their responsibility under local bylaws to clear sidewalks in front of their homes or businesses.
In Sechelt, “the owner or occupier of any real property shall remove the accumulation of snow and ice from the sidewalks and pathways bordering on the real property within 24 hours of a snowfall.”
The Gibsons bylaw is worded a bit differently and calls for property owners to have snow and ice cleared from all sidewalks bordering their property by 10 a.m. after a snowfall or before snow depth exceeds 10 cm.
Gibsons also recently reviewed its snow-and ice-clearing policy to expand the list of areas the Town is responsible for clearing, including a new section of sidewalk and multi-use path on Gibsons Way. Other priority areas include North Road between Kiwanis Way and Gibsons Way and Shaw Road between O’Shea and Gibsons Way.