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Extreme cold in southern B.C. after heavy snow creates travel chaos

Strong winds could make it feel between -20 C and -30 C in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
Aircraft are seen parked at gates at Vancouver International Airport after a snowstorm impaired operations leading to cancellations and major delays, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An extreme cold is settling over parts of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland on the heels of heavy snow that grounded flights, jammed roads and delayed ferries.

Environment Canada warns that bitterly cold temperatures and strong winds could make it feel between -20 C and -30 C in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

It says the cold mass carried by an arctic front is expected to hang around through Thursday.

Vancouver’s airport says the winter weather caused an unprecedented number of cancelled flights on Tuesday, with only a small number departing by the afternoon while other flights continue to be affected by delays and cancellations.

WestJet says snow in British Columbia and extreme cold in Alberta have caused hundreds of flight cancellations over the past three days.

The airline says in a release that there were 210 cancellations on Tuesday, mainly due to disruptions in Vancouver and frigid temperatures in Calgary and Edmonton.

It says in a release that there were 146 flight cancellations on Monday and 104 on Sunday.

Morgan Bell, a WestJet spokeswoman, says its teams at airports are working as quickly as possible to support all of their guests.

She says the winter weather is also affecting its staff and service partners, including the ability of some employees to get to work safely.

Bell says the severe weather is making it a challenge as WestJet works to stabilize its operations and fulfil mandatory crew rest safety requirements.

“The ongoing extreme cold weather warnings affecting Alberta and prolonged forecasted snow and weather events for regions across B.C. inclusive of Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan, are having a severe impact not only on our operations, but our staff and service partners,” Bell said.

Drivers were encouraged to avoid non-essential travel and BC Ferries cancelled sailings on many routes, but most sailings were on schedule early Wednesday.

Extreme cold has gripped much of Western and Central Canada, with weather warnings in effect for most of British Columbia and Alberta, as well as parts of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon.

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