Cold wintry conditions create chaos across Central Okanagan

Wintry conditions this week have been a detriment to some, a benefit to others

If you think it’s been frigid across the Central Okanagan this week, you’re not alone.

Earlier this week temperatures plummeted as a cold weather system swept into the region and meteorologists expect the cold temperatures to stick around until Friday.

To show just how quickly conditions changed, Environment Canada’s Doug Lundquist said temperatures dropped to -19 C from around 1 C in less than 24 hours on Jan. 12.

Wind gusts of 70 km/h also didn’t help, making the temperature feel like -28 C earlier this week.

READ MORE: Cold temperatures break 1935 record in Kelowna and Penticton

Lundquist said a cold arctic ridge from the north is to blame for the sudden plunge into winter weather.

“We have an arctic ridge coming from the Yukon and Northwest Territories,” said Lundquist. “It’s pretty typical since it’s Jan. 15, the coldest time of year in the region.”

He said the weather system is impacting areas as far south as Washington state and will likely persist for the remainder of the week.

“The cold weather will continue for a couple of nights,” said Lundquist

“The modification starts around Friday when a dump of snow will bring temperatures close to zero.”

With the sudden change in conditions, local roads have been treacherous for motorists.

Along Highway 33, from Kelowna to the Big White Ski Resort turnoff, numerous vehicles had difficulty traveling the road with several ending up in the ditch.

“I saw a couple of cars in the ditch,” said Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president for Big White.

“One car that ended up there was along a straightaway on the highway.”

On the west side of Okanagan Lake, massive amounts of snow compounded with icy conditions made traveling in West Kelowna an extremely difficult task.

One of the worst areas was Gellatly Road, which was extremely icy at one point making it difficult for vehicles to make it up the road’s steep incline.

Due to those conditions, the RCMP closed Gellatly in both directions so it could be cleared and sanded.

Strong winds were also blamed for blowing a large tree onto a power line on Webber Road in Glenrosa, which in turn caught fire.

While the fire did not extend to any structures, the road was closed for a period of time to allow the West Kelowna fire department and BC Hydro to extinguish the flames and fix the power lines. There were no reports of injuries.

The weather conditions caused havoc on Kelowna road too, and city operations supervisor Stephen Bryans said his crews have been out in full force during this past week.

“During the last snowstorm, we had (more than) 40 pieces of equipment salting and sanding,” said Bryans.

“We had 30 hand shovellers clearing bridges, stairs, walkways and approximately 600 of our transit stops.”

Bryans said the rapid change in weather conditions earlier in the week made it difficult to keep the roads clear.

“The challenge was that we had storms with wet snow over the weekend. Then, there was a short window where it went into a deep freeze,” said Bryans.

“During that time, we wanted to get slush off the road before everything froze.”

Despite the extreme winter weather, it hasn’t been all bad news for the Central Okanagan.

Ballingall said snow conditions up at Big White have been fantastic.

“We have four-and-a-half metres of snow at Big White, including one metre in the last week,” said Ballingall.

“This is some of the best snow you’ll have for skiing, considering we’re approaching a 250-centimetre snow base.”

While many Central Okanagan residents are complaining about the cold weather, it’s not as bad as some other places.

If you were in Dawson City, Yukon, earlier this week you would have shivered through temperatures that felt like -55 C with the wind chill factored in.

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