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Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories for 2008

Table of Contents

Regional Weather Highlights 2008

British Columbia

More Slipping and Sliding
Towards the end of January, British Columbia faced the season's worst bout of winter weather: gusty winds, black ice, a deep freeze, substantial snows and dangerous frostbite (-52°C at Dawson Creek). Even an avalanche warning was part of the mix. The deep freeze turned rain-slicked roads into icy surfaces, causing hundreds of fender-benders. The Lower Mainland received up to 20 cm of snow. In some parts of Vancouver, buses were halted because they could not manoeuvre slippery hills. The storm was relentless, leading to extensive commuter delays, closed schools and colleges, and cancelled flights. Even postal carriers were stopped in their tracks. Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley residents had already slopped their way through 17 snowy and slushy days this winter, up from the 30-year average of 11.

Nechako River Ice Jam Floods Prince George
A record-long ice jam, the largest in 10 years, caused the ice-choked Nechako River in Prince George to overflow its banks in the middle of December 2007. When cold air hovering around 30°C persisted for several days in late November, the ice started to form early. As temperatures moderated, the ice turned soft and slushy and began moving, backing up the flow of the already swollen Nechako River where it meets the Fraser River. The flood threat persisted into February, forcing the evacuation of two dozen families from riverside homes and scores of businesses, including several saw mills and a fish hatchery. One veteran mill operator said that in three decades, he had never seen such bad flooding. While not unusual for Prince George, which has had 27 ice jam events since 1917, this year's ice jam stretched as long as 35 km at its peak. The Nechako ice jam began retreating on February 7, thanks to rising temperatures and warm water pumped into the river from a nearby pulp mill. In total governments spent $6 million trying to rid the Nechako of the ice jam.

Cruel April Brings Record Cold and Snow
On April 19, Victoria International Airport recorded 8.4 cm of snow more than any April day since 1940. April's total snowfall was a record 12.2 cm. At the same time, the city established records for the lowest temperature on three days: -2.9°C on the first day of the month, -0.8?C on the ninth and -2.1?C on the twentieth. Even more snow (24 cm) fell in Nanaimo. Snowflakes also fell across Vancouver on April 21, representing the latest snowfall ever on record for the city.

What Follows May? January
At the beginning of June, when British Columbia residents expect warmth and bountiful sunshine, many along the Pacific coast shivered instead in record-breaking cold and wet weather. Numerous daily record-low temperatures were newly established. Victoria and Vancouver set records for the lowest highs on June 6 and 9. Emerging plants struggled in the inclement weather. Crops such as tomatoes, squash and peppers were at least ten days to two weeks behind. Marijuana growers were also concerned about crop delays. Finally, towards the end of June, seasonably warm weather arrived along the coast when temperatures almost broke 30°C for the first time in the year. In the Interior, temperatures soared to a record high of 40°C at Lytton and 39°C at Kelowna and Lillooet. Add some haze from California wildfires and it finally began to feel like summer.

Surprise Power Outages in July
In a storm more typical of a November gale, northwesterly winds reaching speeds in excess of 100 km/h swept through British Columbia's Lower Mainland and the Interior on July 10, knocking down trees and power lines and cancelling ferry crossings. Thousands of hydro customers in Vancouver and the Okanagan were without electricity because of downed wires from falling trees.

Record Dry Spell
For a six-week period from mid-June to late July, Victoria recorded a paltry 0.6 mm of rain. For all of July the garden city received only 10.5 mm of rain, compared to an average of 16 mm. While Victoria gardeners lamented the lack of rain, Island hikers thrilled at trekking the usually mucky Cape Scott Trail minus the rain. Several Vancouver Island locations reported less than a fifth of the July rainfall amounts. At Tofino, water restrictions were in effect with conditions even drier than two years ago when the town was forced to truck in water. In Vancouver, July was one of the driest months ever. The downside to the dry, sunny weather was the growing forest fire threat. The fire hazard was high or extreme everywhere in the south. Fortunately, temperatures hovered near seasonal averages; otherwise forests would likely have been ablaze.

Severe Drought in Peace and Thompson River Basins
Drought in the Peace River region was reported to be the most severe in 15 years, hitting farmers growing grains and forage crops for cattle. The dry conditions extended farther south in the Interior. For the first nine months of 2008, Kamloops recorded about half its usual precipitation of 210 mm. By September 30, it was the third driest year on record, dating back as far as 1951. The lengthy dry spell forced ranchers to sell off their cattle early to stave off buying feed. Some marshes were reduced to mud patches.

Aircraft Kills Seven in Fog
Seven people were killed and one person survived the crash of a small aircraft on South Thormanby Island about 50 km northwest of Vancouver on November 16. The airplane was carrying workers from Vancouver to a hydro-electric project near Powell River. The plane crashed less than 20 minutes after takeoff, plowing through tree tops and slamming into a hillside. One eyewitness described the accident scene between the island and the mainland as the foggiest it had been in a long time and with no wind to disperse the mist. The fog was so thick that it muffled the sound of the crash.