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Some commuters trapped for 8 hours as snow wreaks havoc in B.C.'s Lower Mainland


Frustrated commuters were trapped in cars and buses for hours on end Tuesday night as snowy conditions wreaked havoc on highways and bridges across B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

A series of crashes snarled traffic throughout the region, closing the Alex Fraser Bridge in both directions and causing major delays on the Lions Gate Bridge and around the George Massey Tunnel.

Semi trucks stalled and jackknifed on the Pattullo Bridge and the Queensborough Bridge as well, blocking lanes of traffic and contributing to a commuter nightmare that, for some, dragged on for upwards of eight hours.

Among them was Rajveer Kaur Bhatti, who decided to bus to work at Kwantlen Polytechnic University's Richmond campus on Tuesday after seeing there was snow in the forecast.

She spent seven hours stuck on a bus Tuesday evening, and didn't even make it halfway home to Surrey. The driver eventually told passengers they could step outside and walk to the nearby Nanaskar Gurdwara Gursikh Temple – still in Richmond – for shelter.

"That was the option he provided us, and without any doubt we chose that," Bhatti told CTV News on Wednesday after spending the night at the temple.

"They provided us with hot drinks. They provided us with phone chargers so that we can connect our phones and inform our parents, inform our families."

When she arrived, Bhatti said there were hundreds of other people already taking refuge from the cold inside, and others sleeping in their cars in the parking lot.

Road conditions were so poor and the delays were so long, some drivers described their commute as the worst they have ever experienced in the region.

Forecasters had issued a series of warnings earlier in the day, anticipating up to 20 centimetres of snowfall in parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley for the first major winter weather event of the season.

The traffic chaos that ensued was the result of a number of cascading issues, according to Mainroad Lower Mainland Contractors, the company responsible for salting and plowing highways and bridges across the region.

"Cars are sitting there idling and it's melting snow and then (it's) refreezing," general manager Darren Ell told CTV News. "Then more and more people start spinning out because they're uncomfortable with driving or their vehicles aren't prepared for the conditions, so it just creates bad on bad."

There were upwards of 40 plowing vehicles out on Tuesday, according to the company, but many drivers found themselves trapped in the same congestion as commuters. Ell suggested more people should have stayed home or delayed their drive to help prevent the issues that dragged into the early morning hours on Wednesday.

"People knew the storm was coming," he said. "But they all seemed to leave work at the same time, creating that congestion, creating that early rush hour and that just created the gridlock for us – we just couldn’t' get through that traffic."

CTV News has reached out to B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for more information on what led to Tuesday’s traffic conditions. This story will be updated if a response is received.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Regan Hasegawa Top Stories

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