Lengthy Coquihalla closure was due to heavy snow protocol, not a crash

Closure was snow protocol

UPDATE: 5:09 p.m.

Fifty centimetres of snow fell on the Coquihalla Highway in the last 24 hours, forcing officials to close a stretch of the highway between Hope and Merritt while crews plowed the route overnight.

According to the Ministry of Transportation, the highway remained closed overnight due to the extreme weather, noting that 50 centimetres of snow fell on the highway over a 24-hour period and close to 100 centimetres have fallen throughout the course of the entire storm.

“Due to deteriorating conditions and spun-out commercial vehicles, the ministry fully closed the highway for safety reasons at approximately 2 a.m.,” a ministry spokesperson told Castanet Kamloops.

According to the ministry, the Coquihalla Highway has a special protocol that is implemented during heavy snowfall on the Snowshed Hill, bringing in designated plows, tow trucks on standby and CVSE officers with increased communication between them.

“Our maintenance contractor has had its equipment fully deployed throughout the storm and has been working around the clock plowing the snow,” the ministry spokesperson stated.

Up to 19 pieces of equipment have been operating along the highway and crews fully reopened the route at noon Thursday.

Highways 1 and 3 are available as alternate routes between the Coast and the Interior, but drivers are advised to check road conditions and updates before travelling.

— Michael Potestio

UDPATE 12:05 p.m.

The Coquihalla Highway has now reopened in both directions between Hope and Merritt.

"Drive safely and adjust your speed to match the conditions," said DriveBC.

UDPATE 10:25 a.m.

DriveBC is now estimating the Coquihalla Highway will reopen at around noon.

The highway has been closed to southbound traffic for nearly a full day now while northbound traffic was stopped Thursday morning.

Environment Canada is reporting 45 cm of snow has fallen at the Coquihalla Summit since the onset of the storm Tuesday evening.

“The heavy snowfall and gusty winds should begin to taper off this Thursday morning,” the weather agency said early Thursday.

UPDATE 8:00 a.m.

The Coquihalla closure will likely continue well into Thursday morning.

In its latest update DriveBC says Highway 5 is now closed in both directions.

Crews are working to clear the snow that continues to fall in some areas.

DriveBC says the next update is scheduled for 10 a.m.

ORIGINAL 6:15 a.m.

The Coquihalla Highway remains closed to southbound traffic early Thursday morning.

Access was shut off Wednesday afternoon due to hazardous winter conditions. Drivers are being advised to use Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon as an alternate route.

A winter storm warning continues for the Coquihalla between Merritt and Hope, as well as Highway 1 between Eagle Pass and Rogers Pass and Highway 3 in the Kootenays. A Snowfall warning covers Highway 3, the Hope-Princeton highway via Allison Pass.

DriveBC updated the Coquihalla closure at 5:30 a.m. and plans its next update at 6:30 a.m.

Webcam images show transport trucks pulled over and heavy snow falling with snow covered lanes.

Environment Canada says the heavy snow and gusty winds impacting Southern Interior mountain passes should taper off later today.

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