‘People were calling like crazy’: Metro Van towing companies in overdrive amid cold snap

The first real blast of winter of 2024 hit Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Thursday, as snow and sub-zero temperatures gripped the region. Monika Gul and Angela Bower have the latest.

Tow truck companies across Metro Vancouver were in overdrive Friday morning, after an arctic blast brought snow to the region and dropped temperatures to record lows.

Icy conditions wreaked havoc on local roadways, with many vehicles spinning out and others being abandoned during the afternoon commute.

But it’s not just the ice and snow that’s led to problems. The frigid temperatures are being blamed for a slew of problems.

Vehicles on Highway 1 in North Vancouver stuck on the Cut amid snowfall on Jan. 11, 2024.
Vehicles on Highway 1 in North Vancouver stuck on the Cut amid snowfall on Jan. 11, 2024. (Courtesy DriveBC)

Evan at Clover Towing in Surrey says his teams were busy boosting dead batteries for divers whose cars wouldn’t start Friday morning.

“We see more vehicles with battery issues, for sure, because it’s one of the least-maintained items on a vehicle … and once it gets cold or extremely hot, they start having battery issues,” he told CityNews.

“We do see a lot of people getting stuck in their driveway because of low-treaded tires and stuff, not salting their driveways.”

He says this kind of cold isn’t typical for many in this region, with temperatures hitting -14 and colder and frigid conditions persisting through the weekend.

“We don’t really get the weather that’s going to affect starting, other than battery issues, really. You go back east where it’s -20, -25, -30 with the windchill, and if they’ve got a good battery and it’s plugged in, it starts, right? Really, out here, a lot of people don’t even have block heaters on their vehicles.”

Meanwhile, Francis, who owns Cost Less Towing out of Vancouver, says his crews couldn’t keep up with calls, many of them coming in Thursday evening, as people spun-out and others needed jump starts.

“We couldn’t make it [to many] because everybody was stuck in the snow and the traffic,” he explained. “It was completely different. In Vancouver, a little bit of snow fell, but it was slippery.”

He feels there wasn’t enough salt or brine on local roads, adding many of them were icy as vehicles struggled to get up and down hills.

“People were calling like crazy, too many customers were calling,” Francis said.

Abandoned vehicles sit along Broadway in Burnaby
Abandoned vehicles sit along Broadway in Burnaby in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (Chad Harris, CityNews Image)

BCAA says electric vehicles are also susceptible to cold temperatures.

“Depending on the type of system, there’ll be a variation of effects, but generally speaking, electric vehicles can lose up to 30 per cent of their range,” said Joshua Smythe with BCAA’s customer care team.

Drivers are being reminded to be prepared for winter conditions and to have appropriate tires on their vehicles for the season.

Officials have urged those who don’t need to be out on the roads to avoid doing so — a message Evan echoes, especially to those who aren’t used to these kinds of conditions.

“If you’re not comfortable driving, there is nowhere that important you need to go in this weather that you should leave your house. Unless it’s an emergency, you should just stay home — not that I want people to stay home, but I like to see people safer than not,” he said.

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