Winter wreaked havoc in the eastern Fraser Valley this week, closing schools and causing treacherous driving conditions.
It started with large amounts of snow that accumulated to well over a metre in areas around Hope. Following the snow was an Arctic outflow that blew through Chilliwack to Agassiz to Hope throughout Tuesday and Wednesday. Temperatures plummeted to -14 degrees on Wednesday morning, with Environment Canada predicting that Thursday will be even colder, at -16 degrees without the windchill. Winds were blowing at speeds of up to 85 km/hr.
However, the cold snap is predicted to end Friday or Saturday, bringing milder temperatures around 7 degrees. And with that mild weather will come rain, and lots of it.
Now, residents are being urged to help with the necessary clean up that will take place over the next week.
“Right now, our crews are out there working in shifts,” Mick Thiessen, Director of Engineering for the District of Kent said Tuesday. Workers were busy plowing drifting snow off of main roads, and into the centre of roads were possible.
Thiessen said they plow to the centre to lessen the amount of snow that piles up over storm drains. Because once the snow starts to melt, flooding will be the most pressing matter.
Knowing where the storm drains and catch basins are near your property is an important part of keeping your property from flooding, he added.
Thiessen asks that residents keep those areas clear of snow, so that water can flow freely.
There are other things residents can do to help the District keep roads operational.
“Try to park your vehicles in driveways rather than the streets,” he said. “And try to shovel in front of your businesses and homes.”
And when shoveling a driveway, pile the snow to the right side, he said.
That way, when a snowplow comes along it will push that snow away from your driveway, rather than back into it.
It can take a while for snowplows to clean residential streets, but most in Agassiz were plowed by Wednesday afternoon.
The District’s number one priority is to open access for emergency providers, including the RCMP, ambulance and fire departments.
“Then, of course, our next priority is opening school bus routes on school days,” he said. This wasn’t an issue Tuesday and Wednesday, with all public and private schools choosing to close in the Fraser Cascade. Students did go to school on Monday, but many schools chose to close early to allow students to travel home early.
Next on the priority list for road cleaning is the business core and “collector routes” — main thoroughfares that allow people to come and go.
Blowing snow was a major concern for crews throughout the early part of the week, with little snow falling Wednesday.
“We do have our fair share of wind here,” Thiessen said.
The weather caused a number of traffic accidents in Agassiz, including at least one vehicle in a ditch.
On Wednesday morning, one of the area’s two transit buses was in a minor fender bender with a white Dodge pick up.
The incident is under investigation by ICBC, but appears to be a result of poor driving conditions. Transit service was affected in the area, with buses turning around in Agassiz instead of continuing to Harrison Hot Springs.
And in Hope, which received more snow than Agassiz and the same Arctic winds, advanced snow removal was expected to start mid-week.
Residents are asked to be patient while crews may have to close some roads to move heavy equipment. Snow will be moved to vacant spaces around town for disposal.
“This is being done in advance of the expected warm up and subsequent melt,” said Hope’s Fire Chief, Tom DeSorcy. “As well, we will be asking the public to assist wherever possible by helping us to clear storm drains as the snow melts later in the week.”
The weather also caused intermittent garbage pickup, with many companies telling customers they could put out twice as much garbage in the coming weeks.
While the power was out in large numbers throughout Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope had pockets of outages that affected five to 10 houses in each instance. One outage in Hope was due to a mud or snow slide on Wednesday morning, near Carolin Mines.
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