It was a wicked final act to one of the wildest weather weeks in Abbotsford history.
A windy and snowy Wednesday morphed into more than 12 hours of freezing rain which, by Thursday morning, left Abbotsford frozen in a layer of ice and knocked out power to thousands.
Residents and city crews were left cleaning up from what Peter Sparanese, Abbotsford’s engineering and utilities general manager, called “one of the most significant snow events Abbotsford has experienced in its history.”
All that snow – 69 centimetres in less than a week – left the year just a millimetre shy of breaking the nearly 70-year-old record for the snowiest February on record.
The ice accumulated on tree branches, power lines, cars, roads and anything else the rain fell on. Falling branches snapped power lines across the city and left many without power.
School classes were cancelled yet again in Abbotsford, as was activity at the University of the Fraser Valley. And icy roads Thursday also led BC Transit to halt bus service.
After Tuesday’s brief reprieve from the winter weather, snow began falling Wednesday afternoon, turning roads around the city treacherous, particularly on Sumas Prairie, where high winds caused near-whiteout conditions.
Several vehicles left the highway throughout the day, including an SUV that flipped around 11 a.m., sending at least one occupant to hospital with serious injuries.
The driving situation grew even worse overnight, but Abbotsford Police Sgt. Judy Bird said there were few cars on the road and no major collisions.
“A lot of people heeded the warnings that were sent out,” she said.
The problem areas included Whatcom Road near Highway 1, which was closed for about an hour starting at about 11 p.m. to allow crews to do heavy salting and sanding on top of what had already been done.
Meanwhile, at the city’s works yard on King Road, the city set up an incident command post staffed with representatives from police, fire and Abbotsford’s engineering department. The city also added two more contractor vehicles to bring the total number of plows and other units clearing the streets to 19.
By Thursday morning, ice and a plethora of water became the chief hazards. Meanwhile, highways throughout the province were snarled, with closures occurring on all main routes between the Lower Mainland and Interior.
With some storm drains covered by snow, meltwater and rain had nowhere to go, and pooling water posed an issue, particularly in curbside lanes.
Sparanese said crews are working to clear as many storm drains as possible, but residents can also clear drains to alleviate problems near their homes.
“We continue to thank the residents for their patience and support.”
Good news is on the way, though, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald. He said temperatures were expected to rapidly warm, with a forecast of double digits for the days to come. Rain, though, is also expected, leading to the potential for flooding.
“That mild air is here to stay.”