Massive snowfall halts travel and services on Vancouver Island

Public transport is suspended, ferries are cancelled, flights are delayed and schools are closed as snow left thousands without power in areas on and around Vancouver Island on Tuesday.

Environment Canada said winter storm warnings are in place for Greater Victoria and Malahat, and the eastern, inland and western parts of the island, including Port Renfew, Lake Cowichan, Duncan and Nanaimo.

The weather agency says about 20 centimeters of snow and in some cases up to 30 centimeters of snow were expected in parts of the island, particularly in the west, inland and in the south. The snow was expected to ease by midday but resulted in dangerous driving conditions, with both the BC government and local police urging drivers to stay home if possible.

“Please stay home if you can,” Victoria Police tweeted Tuesday morning, noting that city crews are working to clear the streets. “The heavy snowfall has resulted in poor driving conditions.”

Those hoping to opt for public transit instead are out of luck, as bus service is currently suspended in both the Victoria and Cowichan regional transit systems due to the snow, BC Transit said in a service note. The Nanaimo transit service was still running, but with delays, he added.

“BC Transit is closely monitoring conditions and our team is working hard to resume service,” the company said on Tuesday. “The Victoria handyDART service is operating an essential medical appointment-only service due to the current weather.”

At Victoria International Airport (YYJ), passengers are asked to check with their airline for flights and allow additional time to get to the airport.

“We expect snow throughout the day and anticipate delays and cancellations due to wintry weather conditions. Thank you for your patience and to the airport crew working to keep things running,” the airport said in a tweet.

Delays are coming as more than 6,200 people are without power in the southern parts of the island, including Victoria, Langford, Sooke, Metchosin and Duncan, with crews either on site, assigned or not yet assigned to restore power , says BC Hydro.

The situation is similar with BC Ferries numerous departures cancelled to and from Vancouver Island with departure terminals in Swartz Bay and Nanaimo, for example due to unfavorable weather conditions.

While some students may be on winter break, post-secondary institutions including the University of Victoria, Camosun College, Royal Roads University and North Island College closed campuses on Tuesday.

“Presence exams are canceled this morning. Online exams will continue as planned,” UVic tweeted, while Camosun urged students and staff to “stay safe, stay warm and take care if you must travel.”

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