VANCOUVER — Large parts of southern and central British Columbia were under winter storm and snowfall warnings that Environment Canada says were expected to ease by Christmas Eve before the whole province gets a frigid punch.
Special weather statements were posted for Victoria, Metro Vancouver and the inner south coast advising that rain would turn to snow over the weekend as a blast of arctic air causes temperatures to plunge provincewide for the rest of December.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth advised residents to prepare.
"In the coming days, periods of heavy and blowing snow, freezing rain and very cold weather are likely in most parts of B.C.," he told a news conference on Thursday.
"In some areas, that weather has already arrived."
A statement from the weather office said temperatures were expected to be well below seasonal through the end of December.
"There will be an increased risk of frostbite and hypothermia with these conditions," Environment Canada warned. "Protect yourself and wear appropriate clothing when outdoors."
Extreme cold was already gripping northern B.C. on Thursday, where wind chill made it feel close to -45 C in areas along the Yukon boundary.
Environment Canada said an Arctic outflow warning for north coast regions including Kitimat and Terrace was forecast to push wind chill values as low as -30 C this weekend, while areas from Prince George to Kelowna and Revelstoke could temperatures as low as -36 C by early next week.
Sub-zero conditions have already prompted evacuation alerts around the town of Smithers as an ice jam on the Bulkley River threatens to flood both sides of the waterway. Smithers and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako advised affected residents to be ready to leave on short notice.
The province was taking steps to protect the most vulnerable during the cold snap by providing more than 1,900 temporary shelter spaces and nearly 360 extreme weather shelter spaces for those who are homeless, Farnworth said.
"It is vital that all of us step up to prepare to do what is necessary to protect themselves, their families and vulnerable friends or neighbours," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2021.
The Canadian Press