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BC snowstorm stops traffic on major bridge

Staff writers

December 20, 2012 — A large snowstorm in southern BC forced a bridge closure, ferry and school cancellations and left thousands without power Wednesday.

Snow and slush caused several delays on the roads
Snow and slush caused several delays on the roads

Snow began falling in parts of southern BC on Tuesday morning, challenging motorists across the region throughout the day. 

The Weather Network's Ian Jacobs was in New Westminster where a mix of rain and snow lead to slick and slushy conditions on the roads. 

"There was one example of a car that tried to make it up a hill, but really couldn't," says Jacobs. "There was an underlying layer of ice with snow on top, which is why a lot of cars couldn't make it up the hill and we've seen a lot of abandoned cars in Vancouver, in Burnaby and surrounding areas the entire day." 

Several delays on major roads and bridges were reported throughout the day and officials warned drivers not to travel until the snow had been cleared.

Snow and strong winds continued to affect the region Wednesday, resulting in several ferry cancellations, school closures and power outages.

According to officials, about 10,000 customers were still without power on the Lower Mainland, Sunshine coast and Vancouver Island Wednesday evening.

Snowfall totals
Snowfall totals

17 cm of snow was recorded at Vancouver's International Airport, which kept city crews working through the night to keep main roadways clear.

The new, multi-billion-dollar Port Mann Bridge however, appears to have failed its first storm test.

The BC bridge, which just opened earlier this month, was closed for several hours Wednesday afternoon and engineers were called to assess its safety after chunks of ice that formed on its cables began falling onto vehicles below. 

As many as seven vehicles were damaged. 

"There were a few vehicles that were hit by the ice, and the dimensions (of the chunks) had been anywhere from very minor to a couple of feet," said Mike Proudfoot, chief executive officer of BC's Transportation Investment Corporation. 

Proudfoot said the bridge was built in accordance with the Canadian Bridge Design Code and was designed to handle snow and ice accumulations, but those measures didn't work Wednesday. 

"We have instructed our contractor to review the situation with a view to developing appropriate mitigation measures in these rare, extreme events," he said. 

The bridge reopened Wednesday night. 

Be sure to check our Current Road Conditions Index for traffic information and visit our Alerts page for all watches and warnings.

With files from The Canadian Press

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