Thursday April 17, 2014

A week in the deep freeze

Arctic weather will continue to hinder homeless, motorists
Keith Anderson

Chelsey James goes for a walk along Summit Drive Monday morning.

A cold front that brought intense winds, blowing snow and subzero temperatures to the region Monday will continue to put motorists and the homeless at risk for at least a week.

Environment Canada meteorologist John McIntyre said daytime highs will drop to a bone chilling –11 C by Friday and overnight lows will reach –16 C.

Although the 50- to 80-km/h winds that rocked the Interior will subside, gusts should persist for the next seven days and create a wind chill that could reach –20 C at night, said McIntyre.

"It's not going to be calm. It will be breezy," he told The Daily News.

If there's a bright side, there should be no more snow. A combination of snow — upwards of eight or nine centimetres at higher elevations — made driving treacherous Monday.

Numerous accidents were reported throughout the region, including Hoffman's Bluff 12 km west of Chase, another near Lytton and north on the Yellowhead Highway at Blue River.

The eight-vehicle collision at Hoffman's Bluff closed the Trans-Canada Highway for several hours. RCMP Cpl. Mark Skotnicki said three semis were involved but injuries were minor.

"The traffic was lined up almost to Chase," said Skotnicki.

Bad roads were to blame for that and other accidents in Shuswap. Skotnicki and his fellow officers played catch-up well into the afternoon.

Skotnicki told motorists not to drive if they don't have to.

"When I was on the highway, it looks like an actual skating rink," he said.

The crash at Blue River closed the Yellowhead for a time Monday.

Emergency responders were called to Monte Lake when a car left Highway 97 and plunged into the water. Vernon-North Okanagan Gord Molendyk said the driver escaped injury and made her way to Kamloops.

Most of the carnage took place outside of Kamloops. RCMP Cpl. Cheryl Bush said four accidents occurred within city limits, including a vehicle off the highway at Rayleigh.

While roads were clear in the valley, it was a different story in Sahali and Aberdeen, she said.

"The roads are slippery," said Bush.

Bush said motorists must slow down and leave space between them and the vehicle ahead, especially when stopping at an intersection.

The cold also puts the town's homeless at risk. Bush said police work with shelters and make sure street people have somewhere warm to go.

When the weather is this cold, it's dangerous for anyone to be outside, said Doug Sage, the Canadian Mental Health Association's executive director for Kamloops.

The association's Emerald House shelter is full no matter the season, but Sage promised to put people where he can to get them indoors.

"We sleep people where we can," he said.

"It's life and death when the weather is bad like this."

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