Snow, rain expected to make driving over Kootenay mountain passes nasty

Environment Canada issues snowfall and storm warnings for Thursday/Friday

The weather isn’t co-operating much as thousands of Christmas travellers prepare to hit the roads over the next few days.

Environment Canada has issued both a snowfall and winter storm warning for the West Kootenay, as an approaching Pacific frontal system tracks inland later today and stalls across the southern interior tonight.

“Snow at times heavy will begin this evening and then change to showers Friday morning, with local amounts of at least 10 cm expected in West Kelowna, Peachland, Sicamous and Grand Forks,” says the snowfall alert. “General snowfall accumulations of near five centimeters are forecast elsewhere.”

A winter storm warning has also been issued for Highway 3 between the Paulson Summit and Kootenay Pass.

SEE: Environment Canada Public Weather Alerts

“Hazardous witner conditions are expected,” says the federal weather agency. “Snow at times heavy will begin this evening and persist through Friday. Snowfall amounts of 30 to 60 cm can be expected by late Friday afternoon.”

The site advises travellers to adjust their driving to changing road conditions. Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow.

“Rapidly accumulating snow will make travel difficult,” says the site. “Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow.”

East Kootenay troubles

Travellers heading east from the area won’t have it much easier.

A local highway maintenance contractor is warning that varying degrees of snowfall are expected in areas around the East Kootenay over the next few days.

Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting is anticipating between two to four centimetres of snow in the valley bottoms and between four and eight centimetres for Kimberley and Panorama.

On Friday, snow is expected to turn into rain in the valleys with an estimated precipitation of 10 to 15 millimetres, while there should be wet snow in higher elevataions of between six and 10 centimetres in the Elk Valley, Panorama and Kimberley areas.

The company reminds drivers to be cautious on the roads, as water on surfaces may freeze when temperatures drop overnight.

DriveBC isn’t reporting any problems with the highway this morning, though it says roads are snowpacked and slippery in sections.

SEE: DriveBC

Weather in the mountains can change suddenly resulting in hazardous driving conditions.

— With files from Trevor Crawley in Cranbrook

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