Coquihalla closed again after re-opening for a short time

By Chad Klassen
February 9, 2017 - 5:18am Updated: February 10, 2017 - 10:09am

KAMLOOPS — The Coquihalla has closed for the second time Thursday after more accidents between Merritt and Hope. The Transportation Ministry has that stretch shut down as freezing rain, and other winter-driving dangers, cause chaos for drivers.

The Coquihalla Highway between Merritt and Hope had re-opened for a couple hours starting at 4 p.m., but this recent closure means all major highways in and out of Kamloops are closed.

Portions of the Fraser Canyon and the Crowsnest Pass remain closed due to avalanche hazards. The weather is causing trouble for many truckers, who were forced to wait out the conditions in Kamloops.

WATCH: Full report by Chad Klassen

Justin Englis started on the road at 4 a.m. Thursday, driving Highway 97 from Prince George to Kamloops. 

"Hit and miss. Roads have been slippery and compact snow everywhere," said Englis. 

His final destination was Langley, but he didn't make it there.  

"I'm going to go to Merritt and stay there for the night. I have no choice."

Claudio Nonis, who also drove down from P.G., planned to try his luck and was banking on the Coq opening back up. But the closure forced him to stop in Merritt as well.

"Very frustrating. When the wheels aren't turning, we're not getting paid," said Nonis about the closures and conditions.

The Transportation Ministry decided to shut down the Coquihalla, deeming it too unsafe to drive with the freezing rain. 

"Today is an extraordinary circumstance. It's not often that I can say, standing in Kamloops, all major highways into Kamloops from the Lower Mainland are closed," said Transportation Minister Todd Stone. "On the Coquihalla, we had the extraordinary circumstance of freezing rain cells passing through, particularly the Hope to Merritt section. One of our maintenance contractors reported a couple inches of ice formed on the hood of his truck in less than 20 minutes."

Donovan Foster made it through that freezing rain, but barely. He says it was a terrible drive. 

"Wow, no good. Scary," he said. "Trucks sliding left, right, and centre. No good. I got to put chains on to get over here."

Foster is happy he's passed that nightmare. As for Englis, he's off to Merritt before a rest there overnight. 

"It gets a little frustrating, but we just have to take it. No sense in getting angry about. The roads get shut down, you do what you have to do. Just deal with it," said Englis.  

Small Town Stories: Sun Peaks