News

Comox Valley snowfall creates frowns — and smiles

Persistent weekend snowfall stretching into Monday disrupted the schedules of many people in the Comox Valley, but caused wide grins at Mount Washington Alpine Resort.

All School District 71 schools were closed Monday due to snowfall.

District manager of operations Ian Heselgrave said many factors were considered when the decision was made to close schools Monday morning.

As per normal procedure when closure is considered, at 5 a.m. Heselgrave and his team drove the routes to school themselves so they could see what road conditions were like.

Heselgrave notes that while the main roads were clear, many side roads were not. As well, Heselgrave noted the weather forecast called for more snowfall throughout the day, and Comox Valley RCMP warned drivers to leave their vehicles parked if they could, and drive with caution if they had to drive.

The school district makes the decision to close schools early in the morning because buses start their morning routes at 6:45 a.m. Once kids are on the bus, they must stay at school the entire day because many parents work and kids cannot be sent home if parents or guardians are not present.

North Island College closed its Comox Valley and Campbell River campuses Monday due to weather conditions, too.

Despite the snow, Comox Valley Airport CEO Fred Bigelow said the weekend was "pretty good in terms of ceiling and visibility."

There were some carrier cancellations coming from Vancouver, mainly due to issues and weather conditions across the water. However, WestJet flights came and went as per normal from Edmonton and Calgary. YQQ missed just one flight Monday morning.

"It's just a matter of watching the weather," Bigelow said.

In town, arterial roads are the priority for road-plowing services, followed in order by collector roads, local roads, cul-de-sacs and lanes.

"It's all about trying to do our best to follow the (snow removal) policy," said Courtenay City CAO David Allen, noting the potential for power outages resulting from snow accumulation on tree branches.

BC Hydro reported isolated power outages Monday morning.

With continual snowfall, crews have had to redo areas previously plowed.

"You can only keep folks working for a certain period of time," Allen said, adding the public has mostly understood crews are doing the best they can to keep things moving.

Monday morning in Comox, crews were staying on top of main roads and returning to residential areas to clear snow. They have been in and out on cul de sacs only to be pulled back to the main roads.

"We're looking for people's patience because we know how trying it can be," public works superintendent Glenn Westendorp said. "That (main roads) is our first priority."

"If the snow would stop we'd be able to catch up," said Rob Crisfield, manager of operations in Cumberland.

Despite being a truck down and dealing with equipment breakages, Crisfield said Village crews have been doing a good job of keeping roads open.

The Lewis and Filberg centres were open Monday, but special-needs programs and the Cozy Corner Nursery School were cancelled. Individual programs may need to be cancelled if instructors are not available. The City of Courtenay will update its website (www.courtenay.ca) with more information as required.

Five to 10 centimetres of snow was expected to accumulate in the Valley on Monday, with 15 cm over higher terrain. The temperature was 1 C.

Tuesday's forecast calls for an overcast sky with temperatures rising to six. Showers are a possibility Wednesday and Thursday, according to Environment Canada.

Meanwhile, Mount Washington Alpine Resort's director of business operations was grinning Monday about the snowfall.

"It is awesome," said Don Sharpe. "The conditions are close to epic. All alpine terrain is open, so right from the Outback across to the Sunrise, everything is operational and in great condition."

The resort opened the Boomerang Chair Saturday, allowing access to the back side of the mountain. Mount Washington opened about a month late this season due to lack of snow. It was then forced to close again due to lack of snow and warm temperatures, but reopened Feb. 13.

As of Monday morning, the mountain had a snow base of 182 centimetres, with 20 centimetres of that falling during the previous 24 hours. Sharpe said resort staff are certainly pleased with the mountain  snow base now.

"It looks like a little bit of snow here and there," Sharpe said of this week's forecast. "But, right now we're well set up so we're quite happy with where we are."

For more information, visit www.mountwashington.ca.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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