Plenty of snow forecast for Coquihalla Highway

Avalanches also a concern

Jason Hewlett / Kamloops Daily News
January 8, 2013 01:00 AM

The Great Bear snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway at 4:47 p.m. Tuesday.

With upwards of 80 centimetres of snow expected to fall on the Coquihalla Highway by Wednesday, forecasters are not only advising people to stay off the road, but out of the backcountry as well.

The problem isn't just the 40 to 60 cm of snow that is forecast to fall overnight with more expected Wednesday, but a sudden spike in the temperature that threatens to bring all that powder down the mountain.

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist said the daytime high is expected to reach 3 C Wednesday afternoon.

In Kamloops, where between four and eight cm of snow fell depending on elevation, the effect will be gradual melting, said Lundquist.

On the Coquihalla, where crews with VSA Highway Maintenance contended with the latest in a series of significant snowfalls, there is a deeper concern.

Avalanche forecaster Cam Campbell said there is a high risk of an avalanche in and around the Coquihalla Wednesday. That means all but the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts should avoid the backcountry.

"Don't go out there unless you know absolutely what you're doing," he said.

VSA vice president Bob Gilowski said the Ministry of Transportation put its avalanche technicians on standby just in case.

"This is probably the single largest snow accumulation that we've received since we've been the snow contractor here," Gilowski said prior to the storm hitting Tuesday.

VSA has been tasked with clearing the mountain pass since 2004.

Fortunately the risk will be short-lived. Campbell said a cold front is expected to move into the region on Thursday, which will reduce the risk of an avalanche.

Before that cooling trend hits, VSA crews will need to clear all that snow. Gilowski had 25 graders, snowplows and snowblowers working around the clock to keep the Coquihalla clear.

Even then, Gilowski advised people to check before venturing out and, if they do drive the Coquihalla, expect to face a winter storm.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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