'Atmospheric river' brought record setting snowfall to southern Interior mountain passes - InfoNews

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'Atmospheric river' brought record setting snowfall to southern Interior mountain passes

FILE PHOTO-Snowplows couldn't keep up with snowfall on the Coquihalla and Allison passes late last week.
Image Credit: Contributed/Ministry of Transportation
December 23, 2019 - 3:45 PM

It was a snowy and slow moving weekend on the highways to the Lower Mainland on the weekend thanks to the record snowfall recorded on the mountain passes.

Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald says 60 centimetres of snow fell in a 12-hour period at the Coquihalla Summit Thursday afternoon, Dec. 19, to Friday.

“That was the second most snowfall in a 10- to 12-hour period dating back to the 1970s. The record heaviest 12-hour snowfall was 65 cm which fell in 2011," MacDonald says.

Over a 24-hour period, 92 cm fell Thursday through Friday at the summit on the Coquihalla Highway.

The Allison Pass on Highway 3 was hit even harder, where 107 cm, or more than 40 inches, fell in 24 hours, a record for 24-hour snowfall on that pass.

“It was incredible, it was snowing four to five centimetres per hour for 12 hours. That’s what made it so challenging for snowplows to keep up," he says.

MacDonald says he watched webcam footage of the snowfall on the DriveBC webcams and could actually see snow accumulating on rigs parked on the Coquihalla.

“It was an intense ‘atmospheric river’ and because it tracked just south of us, we didn’t get the rise in temperatures normally expected with this type of system, so the snow never turned to rain in the mountains,” he says.

“The temperatures did rise on the valley bottoms, washing away some white Christmases there.”

Ministry of Transportation senior public affairs officer Sukhi Tomana said in an email today, Dec. 23, the Coquihalla southbound was closed from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Thursday night, on Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and again on Saturday from 12:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. The northbound side of the Coq was closed on Friday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. and again on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Highways 1 and 3 were also closed for avalanche control on Saturday, Dec. 21. Highway 3 also closed numerous times between Thursday and Sunday due to road conditions and collisions.


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