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First big snowfall of season creates havoc for Alberni Valley residents

Emergency crews deal with high call volumes during five-hour period of heavy snow

The Alberni Valley is recovering from a day of havoc as the first significant snowfall of the year pounded the region.

Environment Canada reported Port Alberni received 24 centimetres of snow on Nov. 29; heavy snowfall occurred between noon and 5 p.m. Courtenay with 25 cm and Campbell River with 21 cm were also hit hard by snow. Power outages to thousands in the south Island had BC Hydro crews working through the night to clear downed lines and other issues.

Plows from Mainroad Contracting, the City of Port Alberni and private contractors worked for hours to keep main roads open around the city.

Highway 4 at the Hump (Alberni Summit) was blocked for a while when two semi-trucks got tangled up in the eastbound lanes going up the Hump.

North Island College closed its campuses in Port Alberni, Courtenay, Campbell River and Port Hardy at 2 p.m. on Tuesday (and remained closed Wednesday). The BC Transit buses in Port Alberni ceased operations about an hour later.

Buses delivering students home from Alberni District Secondary School were delayed, some as much as an hour.

The heaviest call volume for emergency personnel happened midday, Port Alberni Fire Dept. Chief Mike Owens said. “Our most problematic time was from noon to 5 p.m. in terms of motor vehicle incidents,” he said.

“It seemed at least in town folks started staying off the roads when they got home from work.”

At 12:30 p.m. PAFD and Ucluelet responded to separate reports of an MVI on Pacific Rim Highway west of Sutton Pass, which turned out to be the same incident. Ucluelet encountered the MVI so Port Alberni crews turned back. At the same time, Beaver Creek Volunteer Fire Department’s road rescue crew responded to a rollover incident on Beaver Creek Road. On the way to that incident they encountered another MVI and stopped to help the people involved.

Crews responded to a two-vehicle MVI at Redford Street and Sixth Avenue, then another one at Redford and Stamp Avenue at 4:38 p.m.

Fire crews helped block off the 5400-block of Hector Road near Paper Mill Dam at 10:45 p.m. when downed power lines were arcing. Hydro crews arrived at 12:38 a.m. Wednesday to deal with the lines, Owens said. “Hydro crews were extremely busy due to the storm,” he added.

Port Alberni RCMP media liaison Const. Richard Johns said the incident at Redford and Stamp Avenue was a case of one vehicle crossing the centre line and colliding with another. The first driver is suspected of impaired driving, he added.

That MVI was one of several that RCMP dealt with during the day. “We had seven collisions reported to us yesterday,” he said. “Most of them were between 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. which coincides with the amount of snow we got. They accounted for about 30 percent of our call volume for yesterday.”

None of the calls resulted in significant injury. Johns said drivers need to take care when the conditions deteriorate like they did.

“This is just the beginning of the weather we’re going to be having,” Johns said. “A lot of these incidents could have been avoided by leaving a little more time and a little more space between vehicles.”

The low temperatures and snowfall prompted the Bread of Life on Third Avenue to open as an Extreme Weather Response Centre, giving those without shelter a place to stay indoors overnight from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. There is more extreme weather on its way.

While Wednesday dawned clear and cold, it was just a pause before more expected weather: flurries are expected overnight Wednesday with periods of snow on Thursday, Dec. 1. Temperatures are expected to dip to -7 degrees Celsius overnight Wednesday with a high of -3 Celsius on Thursday. More snow is forecast for Friday, Dec. 2.

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A driver clears snow off of a car in the parking lot of 10th Avenue Plaza at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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