Everything in Chilliwack has frozen over after a blast of arctic outflow winds arrived with the first major snowstorm of 2020.
Chilliwack school district officials declared Monday a snow day and cancelled classes, as did University of the Fraser Valley.
Numerous snow-related crashes were reported on Highway 1 due to the extremely icy conditions, some of which shut the highway down for a time after a Sunday night storm brought another seven centimetres of blowing and gusting snow.
The storm total was at 27 centimetres by Monday morning, with 20 centimetres still on the ground, according to Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada for Chilliwack.
“We’ve had crews on 24 hours since Thursday night,” said Glen MacPherson, director of Operations for City of Chilliwack.
They’ve been plowing and treating Priority 1 and 2 roads all weekend, and the temperature had plummeted to around -10 C on Monday morning, which feels lower with the wind chill factor.
“We’re now dealing with compacted snow, now frozen and ice-covered, so we’re concentrating today and overnight with getting salt and sand down on those snow-covered roads,” MacPherson said.
Find out more about city snow operations at chilliwack.com/winter
The challenge is when it’s frozen all like this they can do is wait for warmer temperatures coming later in the week. They can’t plow it when it’s frozen and can’t remove it.
At this point Friday and Saturday is when Chilliwack is predicted to see the start of a warming trend, but there are more flurries forecast before that.
“We just don’t know how much,” MacPherson said.
But in the meantime every snow plow in Chilliwack is working 24 hours a day. Operations personnel work two 12-hour shifts to keep all of the city equipment running all day.
The challenges with motorists in these conditions are the vehicles without proper snow tires, particularly those driving on the hillsides, the city director said.
There have been incidents on Chilliwack Mountain and on Promontory, with four vehicles spinning out on Teskey and Promontory, and two vehicles that went into the ditch on Prest Road.
Driver inexperience in challenging snow conditions and/or improper tires could be to blame.
“But if you’re going to drive, make sure you have proper tires,” MacPherson said, “because we won’t see pavement for a few days.”
The extreme cold is below the typical temperature.
”Presently temperatures at -11 C, plus wind chill, with 20 cm snow on the ground,” Pannett said, adding that “-11.0 c is 9.2 C below normal and the coldest Chilliwack temperature in 8 years.
Previous coldest temperature was -14 C on January 18, 2012. The record low for January 13 was -20.6 C plus wind chill in 1911.
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