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Some Comox Valley people happy about snow, but travel more complicated

VANCOUVER ISLAND RESIDENTS live here to escape this sort of thing, but winter caught up to us Sunday. - CTV Vancouver Island
VANCOUVER ISLAND RESIDENTS live here to escape this sort of thing, but winter caught up to us Sunday.
— image credit: CTV Vancouver Island

It's truly beginning to look a lot like Christmas thanks to snowfall throughout the Comox Valley Sunday night through Monday morning, with a small chance of the white stuff sticking around for the big day.

Environment Canada reports its weather station at the Comox Valley Airport received 21.8 millimetres of precipitation Sunday, although no records were set.

The Valley did fall short of the extreme daily snowfall of 59.7 centimetres, which happened Dec. 21, 1967. Even though there was a chill in the air, the temperature was nowhere near the -21.1C — the coldest day on record — which happened on Jan. 31, 1950.

Thanks to the temperature dipping just below freezing — -0.6C — snow blanketed the Valley, causing kids big and small to pull out the toboggans or have a snowball fight, but also caused some tricky situations for those trying to get around.

Fred Bigelow, CEO of the Comox Valley Airport, said four flights were directly affected by the weather, with a WestJet flight diverted to Victoria (passengers were bused to Comox) and three others either cancelled or grounded.

Bigelow explained although planes can and do land in the snow, there needs to be a certain co-efficient of friction, and when the runways are wet or contaminated with snow, it makes landing and takeoffs more difficult.

"It's similar to driving a car in the snow," he said. "(Delays are) all part of the realities of travelling in the wintertime in Canada."

Emergency personnel were busy both Sunday night and Monday morning, and accidents were reported throughout the region.

"Drivers have to adjust their speed relative to the conditions," said Const. Nicole Hall of the Comox Valley RCMP, who added police responded to at least half a dozen accidents Monday morning and at least three in the same location on bridges in the Valley Sunday night.

She noted drivers have to be responsible for their vehicles by ensuring proper treads and tires, and making sure to clean their windshields of snow before driving.

"If you're not comfortable driving, call a cab, call a friend, carpool or take a bus," she said and urged all drivers — including those in trucks and 4x4s — to slow down and exercise patience.

"A 4x4 slides on ice just as much as a little car; you can still go into a ditch," Hall added.

With the heavy, wet snow falling, around 1,700 BC Hydro customers in the Valley were without power, confirmed Ted Olynyk, community relations spokesman for BC Hydro.

Most of the outages occurred just after midnight and were restored by 5 a.m., he noted.

"It's caused by the weight of the snow on nearby branches," he added.

Due to power outages and poor road conditions, schools on Denman and Hornby Islands were closed Monday, but all other schools within School District 71 were open.

Although residents dug out in lower levels of the Valley, those on Mount Washington celebrated as the mountain received 34 centimetres of fresh powder.

Looking ahead to the week, Environment Canada is predicting rain and a high of six degrees Wednesday, and showers and rain for the rest of the week and weekend with highs between five and seven degrees.

As for Christmas Eve, there is a 60 per cent chance of showers, with a high of 4C, and low of 1C.

If the snow does melt in time for Christmas, Valley residents can rejoice on one weather-note: The Weather Network is predicting the temperature at the North Pole to drop to -30C on Christmas Eve.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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