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A cyclist rides along the seawall during snowfall in Vancouver on Tuesday. Much of the snow in the area was expected to melt on Wednesday, before returning Thursday.

BEN NELMS/The Globe and Mail

Tens of thousands of British Columbians were without power on Tuesday as snow hit much of the province's southwestern coast and Vancouver Island, a weather challenge that also had an impact on the regions airports, transit and other services.

Heavy, wet snow and freezing rain were linked to power outages affecting more than 75,000 customers on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Vancouver region, BC Hydro said in a statement. The publicly owned utility said the hardest-hit areas were Victoria, Nanaimo and Duncan.

"All available resources are working together on restoring power. That includes our BC Hydro crews as well as contractor crews," the statement said.

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Environment Canada issued weather alerts Tuesday morning for Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver, predicting up to 20 centimetres of snow in higher elevations of the island and 10 to 15 centimetres of snow in the Vancouver region.

Yet it also forecast a break in the weather Wednesday, when much of the snow was expected to melt before returning on Thursday.

The weather prompted delays and cancellations throughout the day at Vancouver International Airport, which activated a snow-operations plan that included deploying crews to de-ice aircraft, clear snowy runaways and other areas of the facility in suburban Richmond, B.C. It also caused disruptions at other Western Canada airports.

Key postsecondary institutions were also affected. Simon Fraser University tweeted that its key Burnaby campus was operating on limited operations for the afternoon. The University of British Columbia said it was cancelling some afternoon exams at its main Point Grey campus due to weather.

In Victoria, the airport had to operate on what they called essential power through part of the day before full power was restored in mid-afternoon. Heavy snow was blamed for flight delays and cancellations. Terminal operations were subsequently restored.

Vancouver said it was ready for this year's winter after there were questions concerning snow- and ice-removal strategies last January. Critics had urged Mayor Gregor Robertson to call for a formal inquiry into the city's response to a heavy snowfall. Jerry Dobrovolny, Vancouver's general manager of engineering services, described last winter as "exceptional" and a once-in-a-30-year event.

As this winter loomed, Mr. Robertson said recently that the city was ready with a boosted snow-response plan. On Tuesday, Mr. Dobrovolny outlined an aggressive plan to fight snow and ice with promises of increased salt storage, service response times and a new fleet of vehicles that would allow for better access to some neighbourhoods and lanes.

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"This year, we have added new areas for snow and ice removal, including pedestrian pathways, arterial corner ramps, bus stops and some steep laneways that will help us in collecting garbage and recycling," Mr. Dobrovolny said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the City of Vancouver said its crews would be working overnight to keep salting and plowing major roadways and that it had activated the operations centre for dealing with extreme weather to co-ordinate the municipal response. It said the weather was prompting a move to open three warning centres at community centres overnight for people trying to escape the cold.

TransLink, the regional transit authority, reported weather-related delays in services across the Vancouver region with service issues on bus routes, the rapid-transit SkyTrain system and Canada Line linking Richmond, Vancouver and the airport.

The University of British Columbia cancelled afternoon exams due to poor driving conditions into the school's campus west of Vancouver, but evening exams were expected to proceed as scheduled.

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