Regional highlights for British Columbia for 2012

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Winter - A Curse or a Blessing?

Vancouver Island and British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, including the Fraser Valley, faced their first taste of winter in mid-January. Snow amounts were highly variable ranging from just a trace near Georgia Strait to 24 cm in Chilliwack. Some areas in the Fraser Valley were lashed by winds up to 80 km/h contributing to blowing and drifting snow. The icy conditions on the heels of a cold snap also caused collisions and road closures in Greater Victoria. The storm closed schools and libraries, halted mail delivery and messed with transit schedules. The Coquihalla Highway was closed both ways between Merritt and Hope. But while most urbanites cursed the nasty winter weather, there was cause for celebration at local ski hills in the North Shore mountains and among the Okanagan’s ice wine vintners who had been delayed by weeks due to unseasonably balmy weather.

Winter Bomb Dropped on BC

Weather forecasters called it a weather bomb – a rapidly deepening intense weather system that packed winds close to 100 km/h. On March 12, powerful winds across Vancouver Island blew trees onto houses and cars, and forced the cancellation of 14 ferry routes and some flights. The winds buffeted the shoreline sweeping boats onto the rocks in Sidney Harbour and knocking out power to more than 100,000 BC Hydro customers. In Alert Bay, several waterspouts were sighted. Among the maximum observed wind gusts were 187 km/h at Merry Island, 143 km/h at Solander Island and 122 km/h at Estevan Point.

Avalanche Season

Record snowfalls over 12.5 m fell near highway summits along the Coquihalla. Road contractors along the Coquihalla between Hope and Merritt reported 80 days with snowfall greater than 5 cm. More importantly, strong winds blew consistently setting the scene for an active avalanche season along the highway corridor. In total there were 10 avalanche fatalities in British Columbia, up from 9 last year but far lower than the 24 fatalities registered by the Canadian Avalanche Centre in the 2008-09 season.

The Only Snow Around

While most North Americans marvelled at the record lack of snow in winter 2012, the white gold kept skiers and snowboarders heading to resorts in British Columbia and Alberta. Revelstoke experienced one of its snowiest winters ever with 508 cm. And there was plenty of snow at Golden, Fernie, Whistler and Mount Washington on Vancouver Island. Snowfall totals at mountain resorts were about 30 per cent greater than normal and at Sunshine Village in Alberta they were the heaviest on record - some 14% more than the previous snowiest season in 1970-1971.

Deadly Wind Gusts

Residents and vacationers in Grand Forks experienced a powerful thunderstorm on July 20. Gusty wind speeds of 100 km/h swept through the area cutting power for more than 20,000 people. The storm snapped trees that came crashing down on cabins at a camp north of the city killing an 11-year-old boy and injuring several other children. The powerful storm uprooted trees, downed power lines and scattered debris.

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