'Ice bomb' risk closes bridge

British Columbia's winter storm has prompted a bridge closure in both directions in Metro Vancouver.

DriveBC says the Alex Fraser Bridge is closed due to falling snow and ice.

The bridge connects Richmond and New Westminster with North Delta.

The B.C. government says crews worked overnight to monitor and clear the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges.

It had warned that motorists could see temporary lane closures on the Alex Fraser to allow snow and ice to safely melt from the cables.

Snowfall warnings are in effect for Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and parts of Vancouver Island.


From jam to coworking

An old jam warehouse in the city of Nelson is about to get a 21st Century makeover.

Nelson tech start-up Retreat Guru is turning the historic Jam Factory building in downtown Nelson into a "vibrant, innovative coworking space."

It will become a spot where local tech and knowledge workers can work and swap ideas.

“We always had extra desk space available with our previous company, Blue Mandala. And we always had a positive experience working with other people who shared our office space,” said Jam Factory co-founder, Cameron Wenaus.

“So last year we decided to explore the coworking model. We had space available, so we took the lead and decided to rent more space in our building. From there, it took off.”

Cameron is working with his brother Deryk on the project. The brothers are currently working with local architect, Thomas Loh on renovations.

There will also be breakout rooms for private meetings and a yoga/meditation studio. 

The building is a timber-framed structure with stone exterior walls originally built in 1911 as a warehouse for the McDonald Jam Factory.

“There’s a lot of synthesis and a lot of cross-pollination that happens when you get people who work in similar industries working in one space; collaboration inevitably happens,” said Cameron.


Natural gas bills going up

Okanagan residents will be paying a little bit more for natural gas next year.

An increase to FortisBC's delivery rate will mean the average residential bill will go up by about $15 a year for many customers in the Interior and Lower Mainland.

The delivery charge is the portion of the bill through which the utility takes its earnings. It also covers maintaining and making improvements to the natural gas system. 

The bump was approved by the BC Utilities Commission and takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.

"We recognize that customers expect us to keep rates as low as possible while providing safe, reliable service," said Diane Roy, vice-president of regulatory affairs at FortisBC.

The storage and transport rate on the bill has decreased slightly "due to mitigation measures we’ve put in place," said Roy.

Meanwhile, customers in Whistler will see their bill drop by about $160 and those on Vancouver Island will see a decrease of $44. Propane customers in Revelstoke will see their bill go up by about $65 a year.

The cost of actual natural gas is unchanged.


Stranded and shivering

Hundreds of university students were stranded on Burnaby Mountain for hours Friday.

The chaos was caused when Simon Fraser University cancelled final exams and closed the campus just before 3 p.m. because of snowy conditions, giving students only about 30 minutes notice.

That sent students scrambling to the bus loops, but TransLink was crippled by weather delays and detours. 

Julia Lewis was left shivering in the cold for hours.

"I'm so unimpressed with Simon Fraser. Anyone can see that it's snowing outside," Lewis told CTV News. "When they cancelled previously on Monday, I got a text at like 7:30 in the morning."

She said the situation was a crowded, disorganized mess.

"People are being misdirected constantly. I was at one bus loop, they told me to go to the other bus loop, now some people are being told to go back to the first bus loop," she said.

The university said about 1,800 students were writing exams when the campus was closed.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Snowy aftermath

British Columbia's south coast is known for its temperate weather and mild winters, but that norm was replaced with lower temperatures Friday as snow blanketed the region for the second time in less than a week.

Monday's flurries marked the first time a significant amount of snow fell on Metro Vancouver in over two years, causing widespread traffic delays and prompting the closure of several schools.

Snowfall amounts for most of Metro Vancouver stood at about five centimetres. East Vancouver Island had the most snow by midday, with accumulations approaching 10 centimetres.

Lower-lying areas in Metro Vancouver and near Victoria were expected to see snow begin mixing with rain, he added.

"Temperatures are right around freezing, which makes it difficult to forecast," said Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Vancouver Island received the brunt of the snowfall on Friday morning, with 12 centimetres of snow on the Malahat highway and the Cowichan Valley, and coastal communities experiencing between five and 10 centimetres.

The snow caused traffic delays for evening commuters and some crashes in parts of Metro Vancouver, where the morning rush was lighter than usual as many people stayed home to work or took the day off.

Concerns about road conditions meant Simon Fraser University cancelled exams after 3:30 p.m. at its campuses in Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby and also required staff who were not critical to operations to leave the sites.

A number of buses were rerouted or delayed while the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines were running at reduced service.

MacDonald said a weekend of snow and rain would lead to a period of uncharacteristically low temperatures as an Arctic air mass moves into the region, bringing with it temperatures up to 15 degrees lower than the yearly norm.

Deep-freeze conditions will come to an end in mid-January, when the weather is expected to return to the yearly normal, he added.

Province funds deer cull

The provincial government has approved grants totalling more than $55,000 to assist four communities with deer cull programs.

Grand Forks, Elkford, Invermere and Cranbrook were all granted funding under the province's
Urban Deer cost-share program.

Grand Forks will receive $16,000 to cull 80 deer in the community.

Invermere has been approved for $10,200 to cull 51 deer and Elkford's application for $10,000 to cull 50 deer has also been approved.

Cranbrook will receive a $19,900 grant to study the feasibility of relocating problem deer that have taken up residence in urban environments.

Cranbrook's study will build upon research that Elkford started last year, which involved urban deer in Cranbrook, Elkford, Invermere and Kimberley.

The program offers matching funds, and support varies for each region. Interior culls are eligible for $200 deer, while on the Coast, the rate is $300 per deer.

Interior deer are less expensive to cull because winters are cold in the Interior, there is less food available and deer are more willing to come to baits.

Cranbrook was the first city in the province to conduct a deer cull back in 2010.

Winter walloping

UPDATE: 7:06 p.m 

Metro Vancouver saw dozens of vehicle crashes and widespread transit delays Friday as the area was hit with its second snowfall of the week. 

Despite a forecast that called for the snow to slow by Friday morning, it continued to fall into the evening. 

Temperatures hovered around 0 C throughout the Lower Mainland, causing icy roads in areas where snow has melted and refroze. 

Vehicle crashes have been reported on Highway 1, Highway 17, Highway 91 near the Alex Fraser bridge. 

- With files from CTV Vancouver

UPDATE: 8:50 a.m.

Snow in the Lower Mainland has forced school closures across Metro Vancouver.

The wintery wallop is also causing some flight cancellations at Vancouver airport.

ORIGINAL: 8 a.m.

The first flakes are falling in parts of the Lower Mainland and snow has already begun to blanket southern Vancouver Island, heralding the arrival of a winter storm forecasters expect to wallop the region over the coming days

Environment Canada is predicting between 10 and 25 centimetres of snow on B.C.'s south coast and the Island for today and into the weekend.

The weather agency is also calling for especially chilly temperatures along sections of the north and central coasts, with cold air and strong winds expected to make it feel like -20 C in the morning.

Between 10 and 20 centimetres of snow is forecast for Metro Vancouver, though only one centimetre fell overnight.

The provincial government says it may be forced to shut down two of the Lower Mainland's main bridges if workers are unable to prevent ice from forming on the structures' cables and falling on passing vehicles.

Monday saw dozens of vehicles damaged by so-called ice bombs, leading to 80 insurance claims, and prompting a pledge from the province to cover the deductible.

Adults, students scuffle

Police are investigating after two adults and a number of high school students got into a scuffle.

Nanaimo RCMP say a husband and wife had gone into a fast food restaurant at 12:30 p.m. Thursday looking for their son.

They confronted some Wellington High School students.

"There was a heated conversation between the parents and a group of youths," say police. "They were all asked to leave and they went into the parking lot where it is alleged an altercation took place between the parents and a number of students."

The investigation continues.

Mail thieves use key

Thieves in the Lower Mainland raided mailboxes, apparently using Canada Post keys.

The perpetrators were caught on surveillance camera at a Surrey townhouse complex with arms filled with other people's mail.

A woman brings a bag to help carry the mail away.

"Somehow they were able to get Canada Post keys," one victim told CTV News.

"Don't know how that happened and it certainly shouldn't have happened."

Residents have posted the video to social media trying to spark tips identifying the thieves to police.

The RCMP is investigating and says it already has suspects.

Canada Post says it's also investigating.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

Police investigate homicide

Police in Vancouver have confirmed they are investigating a homicide in the city's west side, south of the Kitsilano area.

A body was discovered in a home near MacDonald Street and 13th Avenue Tuesday night, but police haven't released the cause of death or the identity of the victim. 

This is the 11th homicide in Vancouver in 2016. 

Missing girl found

UPDATED: 7:07 p.m

The University of British Columbia's RCMP detachment confirms that Zoe Forsyth-Sanford was located Thursday evening. 

RCMP Sgt. Annie Linteau says she has now been reunited with her mother.

ORIGINAL: 6:46 p.m.

The University of British Columbia's RCMP detachment is searching for a 12-year-old girl.

Zoe Forsyth-Sanford was last seen at 8 a.m. Thursday on the university lands in Vancouver.

Mounties say she failed to show up for a meeting at 12:30 p.m. and a second appointment at 1:30 p.m.

She's described as Caucasian with red hair tied in a ponytail, five feet two inches tall and about 100 pounds.

She was last seen wearing a purple coat and black pants.

Mounties are asking anyone with information to call the university's RCMP detachment.

Clinic surveillance scolded

British Columbia's privacy office is calling on a medical clinic to immediately stop collecting video and audio of patients, employees and contractors because it is not legally authorized to do so.

Acting privacy commissioner Drew McArthur said an audit of the clinic in the Lower Mainland was the first of a private business in B.C. and began after a complaint was filed.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner published its finding Thursday in a report detailing an examination of the clinic's privacy management program and video and audio surveillance in its lobby, hallways, back exits and fitness room.

McArthur said the doctor who owns the clinic told auditors that eight video cameras were installed to deter crime, but there was no evidence to suggest such a concern existed and the clinic had no signage about its surveillance equipment.

Signage must state that surveillance is being conducted and for what purpose, typically for security reasons, along with contact information for inquiries, he said.

The clinic installed signs after the audit started but it was inadequate because it did not contain any information about audio recording, McArthur said.

He said private businesses are increasingly using video cameras to over collect personal information without any justifiable reason or knowledge about their legal obligations.

"We want people to be aware and note where these video surveillance system are in place. They have the right to query why they're in place."

Video cameras serve as a crime deterrent only in limited situations, such as when employees are working alone, but a threat must be established before equipment is installed, McArthur said.

"There are a number of court cases in Canada where video surveillance was deemed appropriate in the circumstances, where either it was a high-crime area or there were many security issues associated with it or there were break-ins."

Business owners create liabilities for themselves by using surveillance equipment because the information must be protected and provided to people who request it if they have been recorded, he said.

"You can't just provide the video to the individual. You have to review the video and make sure that no other personal information is disclosed with it. You would have to go through it and blur images of anyone else so they are not identifiable in the information you disclose."


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