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Ferries cancelled, drivers urged to stay home as snow piles up on the Island

Communities from Nanaimo to Victoria dealing with about 30 cm of snow, with more expected

The message for much of Vancouver Island Tuesday is to stay home with most transportation options limited due to heavy snowfall overnight.

The province is asking residents to avoid non-essential travel Tuesday as at least 25 centimetres of snow has fallen in Greater Victoria with 30 cm on the Malahat and other areas of the Island.

As much as 25-30 centimetres of snow fell overnight in the Nanaimo and Cowichan regions and there is a 60 per cent chance of flurries still in the forecast today, with local amounts up to 5cm, according to Environment Canada. A low of -7 C and -14 C with wind chill is forecast overnight.

As of 6 a.m., BC Transit suspended all service in Greater Victoria and the Cowichan Valley. A social media post from Regional District of Nanaimo Transit says most buses are still operating on regular routing, with minor details.

At 11:30 a.m., Canada Post issued a red service notice, meaning mail will not be delivered, especially in Sidney, Victoria nd Duncan.

“A red service alert means that we are suspending delivery for the day and not sending our delivery agents out or recalling them,” read a news release.

All morning ferries between Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Gulf Islands were delayed or cancelled due to weather and staffing shortages.

For the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route, the 6:15 and 8:25 a.m. sailings leaving West Vancouver and Departure Bay were cancelled, but while the first round-trip sailing for Tsawwassen to Duke Point were also cancelled, conditions improved and the 10:15 a.m. ferries from Tsawwassen and Duke Point have both departed.

On the smaller routes, including Crofton-Vesuvius, Mill Bay-Brentwood Bay and Thetis/Penelakut-Chemainus, BC Ferries cancelled the first two round trips.

Emcon Services, which maintains the Malahat, is asking drivers to avoid travel if possible with an advisory in effect for Highway 1 from Langford to Mill Bay.

“All of our #Snowfighters are out battling this storm. Non-essential travel should be avoided,” wrote Emcon Services Inc. South Island division on twitter.

Police departments from across the region stressed that people stay off the roads if they can. Just after 8 a.m., Central Saanich police said many of the roads in that community are undrivable and called the Pat Bay Highway “treacherous.” Mount Newton Cross, Tanner and Keating Cross roads reopened in both directions at Highway 17 around 10:30 a.m., but police reiterated their call for people to stay home in order to allow crews to clear the roads. Nanaimo RCMP reminded drivers to make sure their vehicles are clear of snow before they go out on the roads. Drivers can assist maintenance crews by moving over safely when they see a vehicle with an amber light approaching.

Victoria International Airport warns travellers to expect delays and cancellations due to the winter conditions. It advises passengers to check with their airline and allow for extra time to get to the airport.

READ MORE: Storm coverage

Elementary and high school students are off the hook this snowfall as students are already out for the winter break. However, the conditions are impacting local post-secondary schools.

The University of Victoria has cancelled all in-person exams set for Tuesday, while online exams were proceeding as planned. UVic added that an updated exam schedule will be posted on Tuesday.

Camosun College and Royal Roads University have closed their campuses for the day. Vancouver Island University campuses are closed in Nanaimo and Cowichan as well.

North Island Campuses in Port Albern Campbell River and Comox Valley are closed. The Mixalakwila campus, located in Port Hardy, will remain open.

Thousands are without power between the East Sooke area and Port Renfrew, with some outages starting around 4 a.m. Crews were on the scene of the East Sooke outage just after 6 a.m., where a tree down across wires was to blame for the power issues.

The CRD said it will be clearing, sanding and de-icing high-use urban sections of the Galloping Goose, Lockside and E&N trails. Municipal halls and other municipal facilities, like recreation centres, are closed for the day.

While Nanaimo recreational facilities were closed for the morning, and an 11:15 a.m. update noted all registered programs were cancelled, Nanaimo Ice Centre, Cliff McNabb Arena and Beban Pool are open for drop-in sessions.

All scheduled and drop-in classes at the Cowichan Aquatic Centre were cancelled due to the weather.

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