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Police stretched as sudden cold snap results in rash of vehicle accidents

Jan 15 2012

Icy conditions from a sudden cold snap caused car crashes and road closures in Greater Victoria Saturday night.

Within hours, Saanich police responded to several collisions and had to close part of Old West Saanich Road so that emergency responders could deal with one accident.

Driving conditions were dangerous throughout Saanich, said Const. Kris Dukeshire. Of special concern were areas at higher elevations, including Sayward Road, Cordova Bay Road and Willis Point.

In Nanaimo, Staff Sgt. Mike Wilton said he was bracing himself for the inevitable vehicle crashes that come when motorists do not adjust their driving to suit poor weather conditions.

"We're going to get accidents tonight," Wilton said.

Parts of Vancouver Island were expected to see more snow overnight, including Campbell River and Port Alberni. Both were expected to see about four centimetres.

Victoria saw a few flurries blow through downtown on Saturday with the possibility of more overnight.

On Friday, the extreme weather protocol was activated to protect the city's homeless population in the face of cold Arctic weather working its way across the Island. On Saturday, 300 shelter spaces had been opened. They consisted of 175 beds and 125 mats.

Forecasters threw out a full gamut of predictions after the main portion of a maritime front passed overnight Friday. As the bulk of the front moved through, Victoria saw a mash of elements including snow, hail, rain and sunshine.

Rick Gill, general manager of Mainroad South Island Contracting, said he saw all sorts of weather Saturday. There were no major road problems, with the exception of black ice and slush, he said. He suggested motorists use caution over the next couple of days. "Side roads are icy."

Compact snow and slushy sections made for difficult driving on Mount Washington Road in both directions.

Metchosin residents saw a few centimetres of snow fall early Saturday. The road to Bear Mountain was slushy by 6 a.m.

Today, expect mostly cloudy skies, sunny breaks, the odd dump of snow and even a slight chance of light hail, according to Environment Canada. Rain is also a possibility. Island communities got off lightly overnight Friday compared with the Lower Mainland. Hope had the highest snowfall, with about 24 cm, while Mission received about 16 cm, Environment Canada said.

Parts of Port Moody and Coquitlam had between seven to 15 cm. North Vancouver saw very little near sea level, but up to 10 cm at higher elevations.

The Arctic front is expected to move across the coast, starting at the northern tip of the Island tonight. The system will move through on Monday, bringing an increased chance of flurries, Environment Canada said.

Temperatures in Greater Victoria are expected to drop below freezing over the next few days, reaching as low as -3 C today.

dspalding@timescolonist.com ceharnett@timescolonist.com