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Need for local shelter space emphasized as region braces for freezing temperatures

Last Updated Feb 16, 2018 at 6:45 pm PDT

(NEWS 1130 File Photo)

A special weather statement has been issued for much of BC's South Coast

Forecasters say the surge of cold temperatures will bring the "coldest air of the season for the inner South Coast"

A snowfall warning is in effect for Highway 3, the Coquihalla, and the Okanagan Connector

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You might want to grab a blanket and a good book this weekend — a special weather statement has been issued again for Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and the North Shore.

An Arctic blast is expected to hit the South Coast on Saturday, bringing frigid temperatures and the potential for snow later this weekend.

Environment Canada forecasters say the surge of cold temperatures will bring the coldest air of the season for the inner South Coast. Wind warnings are also possible in the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Greater Victoria and Howe Sound on Sunday.

You can expect the Arctic air to linger into next week, with some areas experiencing daytime highs which will struggle to top the freezing mark and overnight lows which could approach minus 10.

UGM highlights need for shelter space

Jeremy Hunka with the Union Gospel Mission says this new wave of cold weather is “hugely concerning.”

“People who are on the streets have already had a horrible winter. It’s been extremely tough, their bodies have been beaten by the elements for several months now.”

He says the cold not only takes a toll on a person’s body and health, but is also hard to deal with mentally. “We have seen a huge demand at UGM right through February. Last night we were totally full, and the trend just doesn’t seem to stop.”

The UGM has a regular 72-bed shelter –which Hunka says have been at capacity– as well as 20 emergency spaces, which have also been filled. “The demand, the need is so great that it’s tough to get everybody inside.”

Hunka says the extreme cold is an extremely dangerous, even deadly, situation for those living on the streets. “This can lead to serious health concerns. Pneumonia, the beginnings of frost bite, hypothermia. We know that last year somebody died passed away in the cold weather, out in the Fraser Valley.”

He adds some may even be tempted to light candles in tents to stay warm, creating a serious fire risk. Hunka believes all these concerns emphasize the need for shelters, like the one at the UGM. “We do whatever we can to allow people a space to get into our shelter, and if it wasn’t for us, if it wasn’t for these spaces we know that more people would suffer. We know that more people would be at risk.

“We know that the life expectancy for somebody on the street is three decades shorter than somebody who’s housed in Metro Vancouver. It’s a huge discrepancy, that is not ok, that is not acceptable.”

Snowfall warning issued for out of town highways

You’ll want to take extra care if you’re planning on hitting some of the out of town highways this weekend.

A snowfall warning has been issued for Highway 3, the Coquihalla, and the Okanagan Connector. Environment Canada expects total snowfall accumulations of between 15 to 25 centimeters.

Forecasters say visibility may be an issue. The Southern Interior and Kootenays are expected to receive heavy snowfall as a strong Pacific low pressure system moves through the region.

Snow is forecast to start falling early Saturday morning and carry through into Saturday night.

You can also expect some strong winds and blowing snow as the weather system makes its way through. Valley areas are expected to see between 10 to 20 centimeters, with higher elevations possibly seeing more — between up to 20 and 30 centimeters.

Snowfall should start to ease on Sunday.