It may be the middle of April but that’s not stopping both Environment Canada and ICBC from warning B.C. drivers about the potential for “winter-like” weather on the province’s major highways this Easter long weekend.
A combination of unstable air masses and cooler temperatures could add an unexpected twist to a family getaway on Highways 1, 3 or 5, especially when travelling at the highest elevations.
“Because this week was on the colder side, there is a high likelihood we get snow at those elevations this Easter,” said Derek Lee, a meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Lee is projecting parts of the Coquihalla Highway to see up to four centimetres of snow, starting on Friday evening.
While most of the Okanagan experienced cooler than normal temperatures this past week, a handful of people on the Lower Mainland in Burnaby and New Westminster were treated to an unusual snowfall.
“We expect spring to be warm and mainly sunny but that’s not always the case,” Lee added.
“Springtime weather is definitely very hard to predict. We can still see snow until the very end of April, especially on the highest elevations of B.C.’s highways.”
The unpredictable weather during April is something that ICBC has also become well acquainted with over the years.
“Every Easter long weekend, an average of three people are killed and 610 injured in 2,400 crashes throughout B.C.,” the insurance providers said in a statement on April 12.
With traffic expected to be heavier than usual this weekend, drivers are asked to be extra cautious — especially during the evening hours.
“If you’re caught on the road during the transition between afternoon and evening, you can definitely see a phase change in precipitation,” Lee said.
“Especially when you’re on the Coquihalla, it is definitely a concern. That phase change could result in snowfall, slippery roads and the temperature also has the tendency to drop quite rapidly.”
On average, 68 people are injured each year in 330 total crashes across B.C.’s Interior during the Easter long weekend, based on data collected by ICBC from 2016 to 2020.
The springtime trend of unpredictability is expected to be a factor on B.C.’s roads this weekend and according to experts, nobody should be surprised by that.
“I can see why people could be caught off guard when snow makes a return in April, but everyone should be alert of this, especially on those higher elevation highways,” Lee stated.