Snow trucks lined up

City ready to support residents through this winter’s snow and cold

November 18 2021 –

Vancouver can expect colder, wetter conditions this coming winter. According to AccuWeather‘s long-range winter forecast, BC is entering its second year of La Niña conditions. This likely means more snow on the mountains, and at lower elevations.

Fortunately, we have a robust strategy to deal with snow and ice, and to support those in need of shelter.

Our shelters and warming centres have measures in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. All sites have safety plans and are meeting physical distancing requirements. We're working with BC Housing to identify opportunities to add additional shelter capacity over this winter season.

Our winter weather response plan includes street brining, salting, plowing, enforcement, and emergency response. When cold weather is forecast, our crews begin planning for snow and ice treatments on priority routes. 

This season, we have more than 100 vehicles and equipment units, 3,000 tonnes of salt at our yards, and hundreds of staff to deploy as required. You can help our workers, who will be out treating snow and ice on the roads, by only undertaking essential trips on snow days.

Snow and ice response

We follow a prioritized plan to first address major roads and bus routes, as well as bridges and main streets adjacent to major hospitals.

Last season we introduced new procedures to prioritize treatment of pedestrian pathways in advance of adjacent bikeways. Our crew procedures were also updated to train crews on how best to treat sidewalk corner ramps at intersections to maximize accessibility. This season we have also added two walk-behind brine units to treat icy conditions on bridge sidewalks.

You also play an important role in keeping Vancouver's sidewalks and storm drains clear. Following a snow event, all property owners and tenants must clear snow and ice from sidewalks adjacent to their property or residence the morning after a snowfall, seven days a week, by 10am on the morning following a snowfall. Failure to remove snow and ice may result in fines. 

Snow and ice on the sidewalk can be a barrier for many people, particularly seniors and people with mobility challenges. We encourage residents and businesses to lend a hand to those who are unable to shovel their own sidewalks. Become an official Snow Angel and help others in need when it snows.

Support for people sleeping outside

To ensure that people sleeping outside can come into warm, safe spaces during Vancouver’s coldest months, the City and partners are once again activating a variety of spaces to encourage people to come in from the cold.

In partnership with BC Housing, we open the following warm spaces during the winter:

  • Temporary winter response shelters
    • Two temporary winter shelters will be open every night this year between November and March, providing 44 additional shelter spaces.
    • We're also working with BC Housing to identify opportunities to add additional shelter capacity over this winter season.
  • Extreme weather response (EWR) shelters
    • There are approximately 89 EWR beds at five sites that are providing additional shelter spaces funded by the provincial government. EWR sites provide mats to sleep on, and are opened when Extreme Weather Response  alerts are issued by the Homelessness Services Association of BC (HSABC). These are based on criteria including temperature near zero, heavy rainfall, and high winds.
    • Alerts are shared with service providers, TransLink, and other partners who can inform people who are experiencing homelessness.
  • Warming centres
    • There are 45 spaces at two sites are confirmed as of November. We activate warming centres in extreme cold weather as a life-saving measure when the temperature reaches -5°C or below (or it feels like -5°C or below). While they are not set up with beds or mats, they provide a safe, warm space for people who might be living outside.
    • The centres are open to all, and depending on the site, visitors may bring their pets, bikes, and carts with them. Hot drinks and snacks are available.
    • Warming centre alerts are circulated to partner agencies, community centre staff, outreach program staff, and a variety of agencies serving individuals experiencing homelessness. The homepage of the City’s website shows an alert when warming centres are activated. 

These winter spaces are in addition to the 1,350 year-round beds available at our permanent and temporary shelters. We continue to seek partnerships to add more spaces. 

Those looking for shelter space can call 2-1-1 to check availability, or find a full list of shelters online .

Learn more about our winter response strategy