Mother Nature dumps snow on coast

Mother Nature has reminded residents of BC's south coast what it means to be Canadian, dumping snow on the region, snarling travel plans and cutting power during an unexpected and late-February performance.

At one point early Monday morning, BC Hydro reported about 23,000 people were without electricity, and by the early afternoon, Victoria's airport was forced to delay and cancel flights because crews had run out of de-icing liquid.

New snow and blowing winds also caused problems on the province's notorious Coquihalla Highway, where the Ministry of Transportation schedule a four-hour closure Tuesday for avalanche-control work.

"This storm is quite late in the season for us," said Simi Heer, a spokeswoman for BC Hydro. "Generally storm season is from mid-October to mid-February, but it seems to have been extended this year a little bit."

Blame the weather woes on a frontal system that originated in the Pacific. Environment Canada forecast between 10 to 15 centimetres of snow Monday for the area between the east coast of Vancouver Island, Metro Victoria and the Fraser Valley.

Heer said Hydro crews found it tough to restore power because of the ongoing snowfall, as well as icy roads and fallen branches, but by the late afternoon the number of Vancouver Island residents without power had fallen to 14,800.

Also effected were about 4,800 people in West Vancouver, Burnaby and Port Moody, she said.

Terry Stewart, a spokesman for Victoria's airport, said most flights took off Monday morning, but crews ran dry the tank that holds the de-icing fluid called glycol, forcing officials to cancel or delay arrivals and departures.

By the early afternoon, the airport "lost" about two-thirds of its 60 daily flights, disrupting the travel plans of between 1,500 and 2,000 people, he added.

Stewart said the 19,000-litre tank contained 12,225 litres when crews went home Friday.

"Forecast was for rain with bits of snow; it was more snow with bits of rain," he said. "Very odd circumstance over the three-day period, which contributed to sizable utilization of glycol."

Stewart said Vancouver's airport loaned Victoria about 6,000 litres of concentrated glycol, and the airport planned to be operating again by the early evening.

Kate Donegani, a spokeswoman for the Vancouver Airport Authority, said winter weather forced BC's largest airport to cancel and delay some flights, but crews were working to keep taxiways, runways and aprons clear of snow.

"We’ve got about 80 pieces of machinery at our disposal to help with snow-clearing," she said in an email.

Meantime, the Ministry of Transportation announced the Coquihalla will be closed between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesday so helicopter crews can perform avalanche-control work.


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