Vancouver is known for many wonderful things, but its ability to deal with extreme winter weather is not one of them. And by "extreme," we mean a few centimetres of snow. (It's not our fault we get to enjoy some of the mildest winters Canada has to offer!)
With below freezing temperatures and a rare threat of snow in this weekend's forecast, the City of Vancouver took to Reddit Friday afternoon to offer residents a few tips to keep in mind before the flakes hit city streets.
Seriously, don't let those sunny skies today fool you: Though conditions are expected to be clear and sunny on Saturday, precipitation is expected to begin falling later into the evening.
Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning in effect for the Lower Mainland, warning that the South Coast can expect to see up to 15 centimetres of accumulation by Sunday afternoon, particularly over higher terrain.
According to the city, Vancouver's crews have already established a coordinated response plan for what will be the city's first snowfall of the year that includes a brine treatment on key routes like major roads, bus routes, bridges, and 15 of the city's most-used pathways and bike routes.
"Our response through the weekend will be guided by the weather," the post reads. Included in the city's arsenal are over 100 vehicles, 3,000 tonnes of guaranteed salt supply, and hundreds of staff members available to deploy as required, crews will remain focused on treating priority routes for ice and snow.
Avoid driving on snowy days, if you can
Locals should keep in mind that, in the event of snowfall, side streets will not be plowed as city crew focus their efforts on treating the aforementioned critical routes for ice and snow. (A map of those priority routes can be found here.)
As crews work to clear roads, locals are asked to move vehicles from from major routes when plowing is required, to only undertake essential travel on the roads and bike routes, and, if at all possible, to avoid driving on snowy days. If hopping in your vehicle is non-negotiable, residents are encouraged to travel on winter tires.
Both residents and business owners can also do their part to ensuring the snow doesn’t become hazardous for neighbours with mobility challenges, the city added. "We thank all residents for being proactive in clearing snow from their sidewalks before 10am after a snowfall," city staff wrote, before adding that a failure to do so could result in fines.
Those who wanting to offer a further helping hand can also enlist for the City of Vancouver's Snow Angel Program, which accepts volunteers who are willing to help neighbours clear snow from their walkways following a storm.
The city is also encouraging locals to prep their snow gear early, and ensure they have a shovel, salt and boots that are safe to walk in ready to go before the snow falls. City staff are also warning residents to "be safe, be seen," in the event they do head out for a winter walk.
"In darker, wet weather, visibility is limited and changing road conditions make it harder to see," cautions a notice posted to the city's website. "Wear lights and reflective gear, and make eye contact with other road users. Whether you're walking, biking, rolling, or driving, being mindful about how you travel can help make sure everyone gets home safe."
Temperatures across Metro Vancouver expected to dip; warming centres opened
Alongside the snow, temperatures will be on the chilly side, too (at least by Vancouver standards): They felt lke —7°C with the wind chill Saturday morning before rising to a far more comfortable high of 4°C in the afternoon, are are expected to hover around 1°C overnight.
To that end, the city has opened the following warming centres that will remain available to members of the public until Jan. 27.
Warming centres will be open at the following locations:
- Powell Street Getaway, 528 Powell St: 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.
- Vancouver Aquatic Centre, 1050 Beach Ave: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
- Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
- Vancouver Odd Fellows, 1443 W 8th Ave: 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
These warming centres are activated as a life-saving measure for people sleeping outside during the colder winter months, the city explained.
Anyone who is sleeping outside is encouraged to visit one of these centres, which also welcome people who have pets and carts. The centres will also provide hot drinks and snacks, though all sites are operating at a reduced capacity to support physical distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city's warming centres are activated when temperatures reach, or feel like, -5°C or below. These sites are an additional measure to the city's Extreme Weather Response shelters that continue to be opened whenever the temperature is 0 degrees or feels like 0.