Thursday July 10, 2014

Freezing rain could make roads dicey for holiday travellers

A blast of freezing rain forecast to hit the region Sunday night could make driving treacherous for travellers headed north to spend Christmas with family and friends, Environment Canada warned.

Although it's not going to strike with anywhere near the ferocity of the ice storm that crippled Eastern Canada, the outlook was concerning enough to hold the attention of Kamloops Airport manager Fred Legace.

"It's something we're aware of," Legace said Sunday. "The crews that are on are watching it."

So, too, should anyone planning to drive to Williams Lake, Quesnel or Prince George. Environment Canada meteorologist Greg Pearce said a slight warming trend Sunday afternoon caused precipitation to materialize as freezing rain.

While there's only a slim chance in the city, the central Interior will experience the worst of it, said Pearce.

"Any precipitation that we get later (Sunday) and the overnight period . . . could be freezing rain," he said.

The worst will pass by today, but roads will be slick through the morning, said Pearce. Travellers are advised to check before hitting the road.

"In Kamloops, it's just a slight risk," he said.

RCMP ask motorists to drive with care on this, the busiest travel time of the year. Sgt. Ed Preto said people need to slow down and keep their distance from the vehicle ahead.

If freezing rain does materialize, Legace said staff will utilize the airport's new de-icing system, which was called into action Dec. 16 when low fog caused freezing drizzle to coat the runway.

What was once a 12-hour endeavour to clear the runway only took 20 minutes, he said. Legace doesn't expect any ice accumulation to cause much of a delay.

Drivers headed south to the Lower Mainland will have a couple of centimetres of new snow to contend with between Kamloops and Merritt, said Pearce.

As for the ice storm out east, countless delayed and cancelled flights resulted a few slight delays at Fulton Field late Sunday.

"It affects things everywhere," Legace said of the ice storm.

Meanwhile, a storm that rolled over the southern Interior on Friday left more than a few ICBC claims in its wake but no serious injuries, police said.

Upwards of 15 centimetres fell in some areas on Friday, far more than the two to four that were forecast. There were 24 road accidents during the course of the day.

"We were busy all day, dealing with traffic accidents and traffic incidents," said Sgt. Fran Bethell of Kamloops RCMP. "It was steady for the fire department, who do attend accidents on our behalf now."

In cases where no alcohol, traffic fines or accident investigations are involved, Kamloops Fire and Rescue now attends traffic accidents without the police having to attend.

"Fortunately there were very few incidents involving any injuries," she added. "People were skidding off the roads and a couple of them struck phone poles, but there were minor injuries only."

The snowfall tapered off overnight Friday. By the time Saturday rolled around, all was quiet.

Despite an earlier forecast to the contrary, Pearce said it looks like Kamloops will enjoy a white Christmas after all.

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