After days of fair and mild weather across British Columbia this week, an unsettled pattern will return with a couple of systems pushing in for Friday and the weekend. While these system will bring beneficial snow to ski areas, it could make for some difficult and dangerous travel through the mountain passes. The Coquihalla Highway is expected to receive between 20-40 cm of snow with some icy precipitation mixed in as well. Arctic air will migrate south later in the weekend, with a much more wintry spin taking shape across southern B.C. next week. Parts of the South Coast will be threatened with a decent helping of snow as temperatures cool and an active pattern sets up next week. More on timing and impacts, below.
This weekend: Dicey travel with heavy snow through the mountain passes
Two fronts sliding down the coast on Friday will bring a fresh coating of snow to the alpine level through the weekend. While this will be welcomed by ski resorts officially kicking off their winter season, with the freezing levels starting to tumble below 1000 metres ahead of the Arctic air mass for next week, travel this weekend through the passes could get dicey at times.
"The most challenging drives this weekend will be focused to anyone travelling from the interior to the coast," says Kelly Sonnenburg, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "The Coquihalla Highway is expected to receive between 20-40 cm of snow with some icy precipitation mixed in as well."
As a result, drivers may want to think about postponing any non-essential travel, especially since weather and visibility in the mountains can change very suddenly.
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Freezing levels will bottom out through the interior, which means cities and communities in the Okanagan will receive anywhere from a couple centimetres up to 10 cm of snow. Further east towards the Rockies, snow will be plentiful, with 15-30 cm expected for the mountain peaks and the Eagle, Rogers and Kootenay passes.
Behind the second front on Sunday, Arctic air will migrate south leading to a frigid air mass settling in by mid to late week next week. Daytime highs to start next week will be in the minus double digits for many in central and northern B.C. and in the minus single digits to start out in the south.
By mid to late week, temperatures in the central and northern interior will plunge into the -20s for daytime highs. Overnight lows in the north will creep towards the -30s, with wind chills making things feel even colder.
Look ahead: Widespread snow threat across the South Coast next week
As the cold air settles in next week, a system from Alaska is forecast to dive towards the South Coast bringing widespread snow.
"With temperatures well below the freezing mark most, if not all, precipitation will fall as snow," says Sonnenburg. "It will have been over three weeks since Vancouver and the lower elevations had received snow, and this event could be much more significant than the last."
Be sure to check back for the lates updates on the pattern change across B.C.