Record snowfall disrupts Powell River region

Drivers and city crews continue to battle with weather conditions

As snow fell this past weekend, disrupting residents of Powell River and the Sunshine Coast, so too did weather records.

Snowfall in Powell River set new highs between Friday, February 3, and Sunday, February 5, according to weather data from Environment Canada. More than 45 centimetres fell over the three days.

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Friday’s snowfall totalled 28.8 centimetres, breaking the previous February 3 record of eight centimetres, set in 1996. The previous February 4 record of one centimetre, set in 2008, was shattered with Saturday’s 11.8 centimetres. 

City of Powell River director of infrastructure Tor Birtig said that, despite the snowfall, he thinks his crews have handled the unusual weather well.

“We’ve done a great job on it,” said Birtig. “I’m sure some people would beg to differ because the side streets weren’t cleared to bare road for the longest time, but that’s to be expected. The hills were taken care of and the flatter side streets were left for later.”

Birtig explained that throughout the storms, the primary focus of the maintenance work has been to clear major routes first, and then move to the smaller side streets. He added that he is running 12-hour shifts to maintain the roads.

“We haven’t seen this kind of snowfall in a while,” he said.

Snow took its toll on residents needing to go anywhere, in town or out. Flights in and out of Powell River Airport were cancelled or delayed due to icy runway conditions or lack of visibility.

City bus service was cancelled for the better part of the weekend and the unpredictability of road conditions made driving perilous. City plows were out on regular rotation, clearing the more than 100 kilometres of roads inside Powell River limits, while Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure contractor Capilano Highway Services battled to keep Highway 101 clear for drivers.

The hill section of Highway 101 leading up to Wildwood was closed for a couple of hours on Saturday after a city bus slid off the road when cars ahead of it lost traction. No injuries were reported and, according to Birtig, there were no reports of damage to the bus.

Powell River RCMP constable Kerri Chard said there have not been any serious accidents due to the snow, but several slow-speed incidents happened over the weekend, including one where a driver slid over a bank on Marine Avenue and ended up on the Sea Walk. The driver, a 50-year-old female, is facing impaired driving charges.

“In general we haven’t had any serious incidents, mostly people are just slipping and sliding due to the inclines of the roads in the area,” said Chard.

She added that multiple cars were involved in a pileup at the top of Nootka Street on Monday, also with no injuries reported.

Despite less snow on Sunday, another intense winter storm brought additional heavy-snowfall warnings from Environment Canada on Monday.

Another five to 10 centimetres of snow fell on Monday, with most School District 47 schools and Vancouver Island University closing at 1 pm as the flakes continued to fall.

The weather forecast calls for heavy snow on Wednesday and warmer, wetter conditions later in the week.

Copyright © Powell River Peak


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