B.C. year in review 2018: Storms, smoke, snow round out year of wild weather
23rd December 2018

As the clock ticked down on the final days of 2018, B.C.’s south coast was walloped by one of the most powerful storms it has seen in decades.

It was a potent reminder of what Mother Nature can do, and how much of an impact she can have on  the daily lives of British Columbians.

But that big storm was just one of a number of extreme weather events that made headlines in 2018.

Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable ones.

Let it snow

While B.C.s Interior is used to having snow stick around through until the end of winter, that’s not usually the case on the South Coast.

So imagine Metro Vancouver’s surprise to be socked in with a heavy dump of snow in late February.

The region saw accumulation of more than 10 cm in a single day — a big snow event by Vancouver’s standards any time of year.

The snowfall led to commuter chaos, along with some more unusual moments, like this Lamborghini that managed to spin out in the wild weather:

Yes, it’s a cliché. But Vancouver really does have a tough time on the road in the snow.

B.C. floods

From the end of April through early June, B.C.’s Interior faced major flooding, with rising waters forcing thousands of people from their homes.

Premier John Horgan described the flooding, brought on by a prolonged period of warm weather that melted snowpack, as a “one in a hundred years” event.

The Kootenay Boundary-region community of Grand Forks was particularly hard hit, with multiple buildings and homes damaged — and some homeowners even trapped in their residences. In December, the province announced nearly $3 million in aid for the community.

Over the course of the flooding, thousands of people were forced to evacuate from homes in Kelowna, Grand Forks, Osoyoos, Keremeos and other communities in the Southern Interior.

The rapidly rising Fraser River also prompted limited evacuations and evacuation alerts in the Fraser Valley.

The floods also saw the deployment of Canadian Forces troops to help battle the rising waters, along with the assistance of more than 300 people from BC Wildfire Service.

All told, the devastating flood season cost the province more than $162 million.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

At one point this summer, the smoke billowing from B.C.’s massive wildfires was so thick, it appeared to be night time during broad daylight in Prince George.

The thick smoke socked in B.C.’s Interior for weeks, pushed down to the Metro Vancouver area and created “apocalyptic” conditions as far away as Alberta, Ontario and even Ireland at one point.

Many communities saw the air quality health index top out over 10 — meaning very hazardous — for days on end. Residents were urged to stay indoors and public health officials counselled people to find refuge in malls and swimming pools.

Fortunately, the prolonged smoke didn’t come with any permanent health risks.

The smoke pouring off of hundreds of wildfires stacked up to yet another record year for B.C.

More than 1.25 million hectares burned in more than 2,050 fires in 2018, more than any previous recorded year — and surpassing the previous record of 1.2 million set in 2017.

More than 5,300 people were forced from their homes, far fewer than in 2017 due to many of the fires being in more remote areas.

But that didn’t make the challenge any easier for wildfire crews who were dealing with more than 50 simultaneous “wildfires of note” — fires large enough or close enough to communities to be of concern — in every corner of the province at one point.

A state of emergency was in place for just over three weeks.

Some of those fires, like 92,000-hectare Shovel Lake wildfire, took weeks to contain and prompted evacuation alerts in large communities like Fort St. James. Others, like the monster Tweesdsmuir Complex fire, grew to more than 300,000 hectares in size.

By the end of the season, the province had spent more than $477 million fighting the fires.

December storm

After a few false starts, B.C.’s South Coast finally got the major Pacific storm that meteorologists were forecasting.

Heavy winds slammed the coast on Thursday, Dec. 20, knocking out power to close to 600,000 people — an event that BC Hydro described as “one of the most severe windstorms it has experienced in 20 years.”

The storm toppled trees and damaged numerous homes — and tragically killed one woman sleeping in a tent in Duncan.

However, firefighters are asking people to stay away from the area, and that Denman Street is blocked between Georgia Street and Robson Street. There were also partial closures on Alberni Street.

It also led to the partial collapse of White Rock’s iconic pier, forcing a helicopter rescue for one man who became trapped.

BC Hydro crews worked around the clock, but even so, residents of some of the hardest hit areas on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and rural parts of Surrey and the Fraser Valley remained without power four days after the storm hit.

Records tumble

2018 was another year of weather extremes, illustrated by the list of major weather events above.

But those extremes were demonstrated in another way too — weather records that were either toppled, or nearly so.

The year started hot out of the gate, with the fourth wettest January ever recorded for Vancouver.

That same city got soaked again when more rain fell in the first 15 days of April than normally falls all month.

Things flipped the next month, with a record-setting drought-like May when just 1.6 mm of rain fell on Metro Vancouver. The average monthly total for May is 65 millimetres.

With summer came a new round of records, this time for heat.

There were heat waves in both June and July, with temperature records toppled around the province.

And there were even records in the fall, when a late burst of summery weather in October set warm temperature records from Dawson Creek to Pitt Meadows.

The following month, an “atmospheric river” dumped plenty of rain on the province, and in its wake came some record-setting balmy (well, for November) temperatures.

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