BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. Storm Causes Avalanche Risk, Power Outages, School Closures

01/05/2015 11:25 EST | Updated 03/07/2015 05:59 EST
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VANCOUVER - Highways and schools closed, thousands of residents lost power, and avalanche experts issued backcountry warnings, as parts of British Columbia experienced winter's first wallop of 2015.

Environment Canada maintained nearly three dozen warnings Monday afternoon about winter storms, rainfall, snowfall and extreme cold across the province.

Avalanche Canada forecaster Tom Riley said the slide danger is rated as high in the southern Interior, though people were continuing to take risks on the mountains.

"We have reports of people going for rides on avalanches and getting partially buried," he said Monday.

The danger rating applies to the Cariboo mountains, the north Monashees and the Selkirks, all the way down to the Kootenay-Boundary region and into the Purcells, Riley said.

Heavy snowfall closed schools in the central Okanagan, North Okanagan-Shuswap, Fraser-Cascade and Kamloops districts, as well as private schools and Thompson Rivers University.

Monday was supposed to be the first day back to class after the winter break.

Karl deBruijn, superintendent of the Kamloops school district, said it was the first such closure is his 37 years on the job.

"I don't think it's ever been done before in Kamloops, and we're pretty concerned about it."

Jen Fretz, public works director for the City of Kamloops, said crews focused on plowing main transportation routes but might not be able to get to side streets within the mandated 36 hours.

"The snow hasn’t even stopped yet," Fretz said Monday.

Environment Canada forecasted snow to end in the city by midnight and freezing rain overnight.

The federal weather agency also predicted between 30 and 50 centimetres of snow would fall on the Okanagan Valley, with the heaviest accumulations on the Coquihalla Highway.

But by the mid-afternoon, the Ministry of Transportation announced on its DriveBC website that travel advisories had been lifted and it had re-opened several roads and highways.

Only one exit on the Coquihalla Highway near Hope, B.C., remained closed as crews dealt with a tree that had fallen across the road.

BC Hydro spokeswoman Mora Scott said the storm cut power to 14,000 customers Sunday night and through Monday,

"The Fraser Valley was the hardest hit area," she said, adding crews had to access one problem area by helicopter because that was the only way into the area.

Power was expected to be restored to the last 7,500 customers without electricity by the late afternoon, she said.

(The Canadian Press, CHNL, Kamloops This Week)

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