A major snowstorm that hit the Nicola Valley Sunday saw a two-day total of between 30 and 50 centimetres of the white stuff accumulate in the valley.

Heavy snowfall continued Monday with between 10 and 20 centimetres expected by that evening, according to an Environment Canada winter storm warning for the Merritt area.

Monday’s snowfall blanketed the city throughout the morning hours until approximately 1:30 p.m.

Despite the snowfall, all of Merritt’s schools remained open on Monday and buses were running.

“[It] might be a little bit slower out there, but we’re open,” School District 58 superintendent Steve McNiven told the Herald.

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology was also open on Monday.

All private and public elementary schools in neighbouring Kamloops, however, along with Thompson Rivers University, were closed.

Downtown Merritt received about 30 centimetres of snow between Sunday and Monday, Lisa Coldwells, morning preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada, said.

Most of the precipitation was expected to subside by Tuesday morning. Cloudy skies and temperatures hovering near the freezing mark are expected to end the week, Coldwells said.

Although this heavy snowfall is a rarity for the Merritt area, it is not unprecedented.

Coldwells said on Jan. 14, 1971 the Merritt received a one-day snowfall of 31 centimetres.

She also said 42 centimetres fell on the city on Dec. 29, 1996.

The heavy snowfall occurred all across the southern Interior.

Between 25 and 35 centimetres of snow fell throughout the Okanagan and Cariboo regions, and it was snowing in earnest in the Kootenays, Coldwells said.

She said the reason for the heavy snowfall is twofold.

The southern Interior recently received a blast of Arctic air from the Yukon. Then, warm, moist air form the Pacific moved in over top of the cold air.

“The two forces have just continuously refreshed themselves. Cold air keeps coming in; warm, moist air keeps coming in over top and we’ve ended up with two days of very heavy snow,” Coldwells said.

A Ministry of Transportation travel advisory was issued for the Coquihalla Highway on Monday morning, advising motorists to consider alternate routes or allow for longer-than-usual travel time between Kamloops and Hope because of heavy snow, blowing snow and limited visibility.

A similar advisory was in place on Highway 97C between Merritt and Kelowna.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Sheila White told the Herald traffic police only responded to a couple of vehicle incidents on the Coquihalla Highway south of Merritt on Monday morning. Both were minor and neither involved injury.

White said police advise people not to travel the roads during conditions such as these.

She said if travel is absolutely necessary, make sure you take your time, have winter tires and bring food, water, blankets and a candle for heat in case your vehicle breaks down or veers off road into a ditch.

The public can monitor the latest forecasts and warnings from Environment Canada at weatheroffice.gc.ca. Highway conditions can be monitored at drivebc.ca.

Environment Canada advises postponing non-essential travel until the weather improves.