UPDATE: Early morning snow hampers North Shore commute

A sudden dump of heavy snow made for a hairy commute and transit chaos Friday

Each of the North Shore’s three municipalities had their full armada of salt trucks out brining the roads starting Thursday night and all of the snowplows out before the snow began to fly around 6:30 a.m. But it wasn’t enough to keep the roads clear by the morning rush hour.

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Bus service suffered on virtually every North Shore route but hilly streets were the worst affected, according to TransLink. The Blue Bus cancelled its service to the Upper Levels, British Properties, Caulfeild and Lions Bay. Horseshoe Bay was still being served, albeit with reduced capacity.

TransLink spokeswoman Anne Drennan said municipalities across the Lower Mainland were similarly overwhelmed when it came to keeping the roads clear for buses.

“It’s been snowing so steadily and heavily, they’re slammed as well, of course. We are advising them of priority routes, which they are attempting to salt and sand, but of course it’s been snowing so heavily that it almost doesn’t help,” she said.

West Vancouver police were called out to deal with 19 crashed or spun-out vehicles, four of them involving minor injuries. North Vancouver RCMP reported two vehicle crashes, one involving a TransLink bus on Lonsdale.

By North Shore News’ deadline Friday afternoon, about seven to 10 centimetres of snow had fallen at most elevations on the North Shore with another 10 to 15 centimetres in Environment Canada’s weather forecast.

When it comes to snow clearing, the municipalities prioritize major arterial roads, bus routes and emergency routes followed by school streets and collector routes. Local streets are the last on the list.

“If the snowfall is prolonged and intense, they will just focus on Priority 1,” said Stephanie Smiley, District of North Vancouver spokeswoman.

That was the case in West Vancouver where the staff posted a message to the district’s website asking residents to stop calling about snow removal.

“Our front desk was getting many calls from residents on side streets asking that their streets be cleared immediately,” said spokesman Jeff McDonald. “It was not realistic.”

McDonald said they too had snow removal teams working at full capacity.

“We started salting and brining (Thursday). It’s really easy to say that we weren’t ready but I think we’ve done all we can to be ready. It’s just an extremely heavy snowstorm that’s overwhelming, in some instances, our resources.”

Still, commuters coped. Lower Lonsdale resident Valerie Barrett was planning to take the bus to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal but when she arrived at the bus stop, she found a crowd of people losing hope a bus would ever come.

She opted to drive, and give a lift to a young mother trying to get her son to childcare as well as another woman.

“I thought, ‘What the hell, if I want to go, I better take my car,’” she said.

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