Fraser Valley ice storm information hub: links, travel info, and how not to die

How not to kill yourself if you need to barbecue your Christmas meal and other important ice-storm information.

By Tyler Olsen | December 22, 2022 |4:44 pm

Ho, ho, no.

Whether or not you need to go anywhere over the next two days, weather forecasters and government officials are pleading with people to be prepared for treacherous roads and extended power outages.

Here is everything you need to know.

BC Hydro outage map | Drive BC | BC Transit info| Environment Canada alerts ​(read the alerts, which are more reliable than the computer-driven forecasts)

Local municipality websites (check for road closures & flooding info): 

Langley City | Langley Township | Abbotsford | Mission | Chilliwack | Kent | Harrison Hot Springs | Hope | Fraser Valley Regional District

Traffic cameras: Langley | Abbotsford | Mission | Chilliwack | Hope 

Keep reading below for more information.

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Why the weather is so bad 

The Fraser Valley has been very cold for a while. A bunch of warm wet air will arrive today, but it likely won’t be warm enough to push ground temperatures above freezing.

When it starts to rain, that precipitation will likely freeze once it hits roads, powerlines, homes and anything else. Roads and sidewalks will become immediately treacherous. So once freezing rain starts, you should avoid leaving your house if at all possible. Those who do will be taking a considerable risk.

BC Wildfire lead weather forecaster first raised the alert about the upcoming storm Wednesday morning in a now-viral social media post.

The medium-term good news is that the weather will continue to warm and, eventually, the ice on the roads will begin to melt.

The bad news is all the ice that may have already accumulated on trees and power lines. The Fraser Valley could see as much as 36 hours of freezing rain. That would allow substantial amounts to accumulate. All that ice is heavy and, depending on the accumulation, can be expected to down trees and power lines, leading to power outages. The more freezing rain falls, the more people will have their power knocked out—and the longer it will take BC Hydro crews to restore electricity.

Travel

The provincial government has issued a rare warning not to travel anywhere leading up to Christmas if you don’t have to.

“I strongly encourage everyone in these areas to travel only if necessary,” Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said at a Thursday press conference. “I know many people have plans to travel to their friends and families but these are very dangerous conditions and we want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Anyone who does need to drive should make sure they have a full tank of fuel, window scrapers, winter clothes, non-perishable foods and drinking water.

Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming said employers should be flexible and make accommodations if possible.

“This warning is for people to make adjustments as they can. We want people to reduce travel where they absolutely can.”

Be ready

In past ice storms, people have been left without power for days, especially in areas away from town.

Forecasters warned Thursday that the storm may leave many people in the region without power during Christmas.

(One year ago, we reported that the frequency and duration of power outages in BC were increasing. Abbotsford, which has seen some particularly damaging ice storms in recent years, has been particularly hard hit.)

If freezing rain does start to fall (remember, it might not, but best to be ready!), it may arrive quite early. So if you need to stock up, do so as soon as possible.

Freezing rain can cause power outages 📸 BC Hydro
Freezing rain can cause power outages 📸 BC Hydro

Cooking

Don’t assume you’ll have power or be able to go to the store or even order delivery for the next couple days. So make sure you have all the food you need, including food you can eat if the power is out. Try to have three days worth of drinking water.

It might be best to start cooking now, Tarina Colledge, the emergency management co-ordinator for the Fraser Valley Regional District, said.

If you have a barbecue (make sure your tank is full), Colledge stressed that they should only be used outdoors (with a fire extinguisher handy.) Using a barbecue indoors poses both a risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. And after an ice storm, emergency responders may take longer than normal to get to any call.

Also, be very, very careful trying to fry a turkey, wherever you’re doing so. Watch this video to see how outdoor turkey-cooking can burn down your house.

Don’t be in the dark

Make sure you have flashlights and batteries—and know where they are so you can get to them in the dark!

BC Hydro’s website has a good briefer on what to do to prepare for a potential power outage.

Information

The Alertable app provides emergency updates pertaining to the Fraser Valley Regional District electoral areas, Hope, and Mission. But anyone, in any area, can download the app and get notifications pertaining to one of those locations.

Colledge urged people to adjust their notifications so critical alerts can override silent mode. Users can also reduce notifications for things like fog and rain. You can sign up here.

Working overtime

BC Hydro and local governments are preparing their workers to potentially have to spend their Christmases working.

Taryn Hubbard, Mission’s communication manager, said the city’s emergency team met Thursday morning to plan for the potential storm. If necessary, public work crews will be called to clear routes, even if it is the holidays.

Other municipalities are doing the same. In Abbotsford, the city has scheduled staff to work over the weekend to respond to the storm. Operations staff who live elsewhere in the region will be housed in Abbotsford so they can perform necessary on-the-ground work, Abbotsford communications manager Aletta Vanderheyden told The Current in an email.

The flood risk

After the snow and freezing rain ends, heavy rain is expected. Rivers are expected to rise and localized flooding is possible, Ma said. Major flooding is not expected, but sandbags and tiger dams have been placed in areas that may need them, she said. You can find the latest flood warnings and advisories here.

South of the border, the Nooksack River is also expected to rise, but not so high as to pose an expected flood hazard. Any melting ice could complicate forecasts, but a local hydrologist suggested local rivers likely don’t have enough built up ice to create an issue that could affect Fraser Valley residents.

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Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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