Plows were out — not early enough for some — trying to make the streets a bit safter for the public during the region’s first significant snowfall of the season. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Snowfall leaves Cowichan staggering

It was just 24 hours front to back but when the snow hits for the first time of the season, it sure feels like longer.

It didn’t help that a power outage that BC Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said spread pretty evenly across Vancouver Island, left 10,000 Cowichan Valley customers without power at one point or another during the snow event.

As of Wednesday morning 108 outages remained, affecting 2,818 customers.

“BC Hydro crews and contractors have made steady progress restoring customers throughout the day and evening across Vancouver Island…” said an outage update online, that called their work full of “challenging conditions and extensive damage as a result of [Tuesday’s] snow and freezing rain.”

Roads were closed then opened, schools were opened then closed. The severity of the weather depended on where you were at any given time. Some places had a trace of snow, some had quite a bit more. Other areas were being pounded by rain.

While the children, no doubt, delighted, it was keeping the grown-ups scrambling.

Officials with School District 79 had kept schools open just long enough for students to get there but when the buses began having a hard time getting around, they opted to dismiss students early. They did, however, remain open to care for the students whose parents were unable to collect them early.

“Safety of students is always the first priority, and we make the best decisions we can with the information we have available at the time,” said a School District 79 notice. “Parents are equally encouraged to keep safety in mind when determining whether to take your child(ren) to school in the event the district is open during winter weather conditions. It is your prerogative to keep them home if it is the safest choice.”

Parts of Cowichan’s south end received upwards of 20 centimetres of snow and it’s believed Lake Cowichan received a hefty dump as well. Highway 18 was closed for a time as snow-heavy trees had knocked over lines and blocked the roads. Utilities crews were kept hopping with downed lines all day and into the night while emergency responders were kept busy pulling cars out of ditches.

There have thus far been no reports of major crashes, however.

READ MORE: Mainroad gears up for winter

As for the core, there was just enough to prove annoying and dangerous for drivers and walkers attempting to navigate around slushy streets and sidewalks.

“I’ve been away from Duncan for a while. I understand that usually the first snowfall of the year is chaotic and disorganized…I’m quite frankly surprised. I zigzagged Duncan on foot this morning, mid-day and this afternoon and I don’t understand the mess,” said one angry Citizen caller who didn’t want to be named.

She went on to say pickup truck drivers were driving like maniacs in school zones, she couldn’t get any information from the various local officials about the state of roads and she was generally bewildered by the entire situation.

There were reports all over the region’s various community Facebook pages of neighbours helping neighbours, and information about power and street safety being shared, as well, however.

Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald said the cold air is expected to stay in place through Christmas and into the new year, with temperatures hovering around 0 C during the day and dropping to approximately -7 C at night, but the forecast is for little or no precipitation and mostly sunny skies beginning Friday.

Environment Canada’s extended forecast has it chilly but with sun mixed with cloudy periods through the weekend with a 60 per cent chance of flurries by Sunday.

“People should watch out for black ice and make sure they have scrapers for their cars handy,” MacDonald said.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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Heavy snow took down branches and power lines in the Cowichan Valley on Tuesday morning. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)

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