Here we snow: Metro Vancouver faces first snowfall of the season

With snow falling across Metro Vancouver on Sunday, officials began rolling out measures to try and minimize its impact.

The region remains under an Environment Canada special weather statement, with between one and five centimetres of snowfall possible.

City of Vancouver street operations manager Erin Hoess said crews are now working 24-7 and have been laying a brine solution on streets since early Saturday.

“We’re [now] shifting from brining, which is a water-salt mix [that] sticks to the roads really well in dry conditions. We’re moving from that to salting because now we’re looking at a little bit of wet conditions,” she said.

Hoess said the city has plenty of salt on hand after upgrading its contract following the chaotic 2016-17 extreme winter that saw de-icing supplies run low.

She added that the city’s Snow Angel program — which co-ordinates volunteers to help people with mobility challenges clear their walkways should the snow stick — is active and available by calling 311.

“If there is snowfall, citizens, residents, business owners, they need to clear the sidewalks surrounding their property by 10 a.m. the morning following a snowfall,” she said.

TransLink says it is also prepared for the weather and has activated its de-icing trains to ensure there are no SkyTrain problems.

Passengers on some North Shore bus routes are being advised to expect some delays, and TransLink says it has swapped articulated buses out on some routes where the snowfall is heavier.

The transit agency is advising passengers to give themselves extra travel time and to keep an eye on the TransLink mobile website for updates.

Homeless concerns

Advocates for the homeless are also gearing up, with a prolonged cold snap in the forecast.

Temperatures are expected to dip to -5 C on Sunday night and as low as -7 C by midweek.

Union Gospel Mission (UGM) spokesperson Jeremy Hunka said this forecast has people worried.

“When it gets this cold for this long, there’s more than one worst-case scenario. Sometimes, people light a candle in their tent to keep warm, starts it on fire — horrendous consequences,” he said.

“People can get ill. We do see people dying in the cold in Metro Vancouver, and it’s awful so those are our fears.”

Hunka said the UGM’s permanent shelter is already over capacity and that the organization will now put out an extra 20 indoor mats to help get people out of the cold. It is also opening its drop-in centre for longer afternoon hours.

Outreach workers are also hitting the streets to hand out cold-weather gear such as tuques, scarves, sleeping bags and reflective blankets.

“There are lives on the line. This is a serious time of year for us. People aren’t ready for it because it’s been so mild. We don’t want to see anybody die,” Hunka said.

Extreme weather shelters have also been activated across the region.

In Vancouver, the Directions Youth Service Centre at 1138 Burrard St. has opened 15 youth spaces, and the Evelyne Saller Centre at 320 Alexander St. has opened 40 spaces.

On Monday, the First Baptist Church at 969 Burrard St. will add another 25 spaces, and the Salvation Army Belkin House at 555 Homer St. is acting as a backup site all week when the other shelters fill up.

In Surrey, shelter spaces have been opened at 10635 King George Blvd., 13639 108 Ave., 15262 Pacific Ave., 10453 Whalley Blvd., 13686 94A Ave. and 5337 180th St.

A full list of extreme weather shelters by municipality can be found here.

The City of Vancouver has also activated the following warming centres:

  • Powell Street Getaway (528 Powell St.) — 9 p.m.-7 a.m.
  • Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, lower level (350 W. Georgia St.) — 11 p.m.-7 a.m.
  • West End Community Centre (870 Denman St.) — 11 p.m.-6 a.m.
  • Britannia Community Centre (1739 Venables St.) — 9 p.m.-8:30 a.m.

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