Local weather made waves in 2012

B.C. flooding that hit Kimberley, Wasa named Canada’s third biggest weather story of 2012

It was a memorable year in weather. 2012 started with a snowy winter, leading into a mild April, followed by record rainfalls and flooding in June, a blessedly dry summer, and more rain in the autumn.

Environment Canada meteorologists issued a wrap-up of the year in weather this week, and B.C.’s flooding was named the third top weather event for the country.

“I’ve looked at over 100 weather events in Canada and boiled it down to ten top stories. Number three in the national roll call of weather in 2012 was the B.C. flooding, which I called larger, longer and lethal,” said David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

Kimberley and Wasa were both hit by flooding last year.

In late April, Morrison subdivision in Kimberley was under water as Lois, Kimberley and Mark Creeks flooded, causing a state of emergency and home evacuations.

Two months later, in late June, Wasa was under water as the lake rose at a rate of one inch per hour.

“We are seeing more times where it is just not one particular location where we see an event and you can get in there with emergency personnel and prepare for it or clean up,” said Phillips. “When it’s happening everywhere, you’re not sure where to send the emergency officials.”

The flooding that affected much of the B.C. interior was caused by several factors, explained B.C. meteorologist Matt MacDonald.

“The winter snowpack was extremely deep on April 1,” he said, adding that around Cranbrook the precipitation between January and April was up to 150 per cent of normal.

Then April was warmer than usual, MacDonald went on, with average temperatures for the month one or two degrees higher than normal.

The final straw was a wet June, where Cranbrook saw rain more than 200 per cent above average.

“With all that snow in the mountains, all that rain falling onto the snow, and with mild temperatures, we saw near record snow melt and run-off,” said MacDonald.

Phillips said he placed B.C. floods at number three partly because it affected so many B.C. communities, creating economic impacts especially in regions known for tourism.

“You ended up with flooding issues that dominated the province and even affected areas for summer recreation right into July. Typically they would be making money with recreation and instead they were having to restore the landscape to something where they could eke out a recreation season,” said Phillips.

Fairmont Hot Springs was one such affected community, after a mudslide tore through the community on July 15. The hot pools and golf course were closed for weeks after the event as the resort raced to clean up and retrieve the 2012 peak season.

After the East Kootenay recovered from the spring flooding, we were hit again by a major weather event with a severe thunderstorm ripping through Cranbrook on July 20. Wind speeds reached 107 kilometres an hour, tearing down more than 600 trees within the city limits.

When summer finally did arrive, it was drier than normal, with the East Kootenay experiencing only 40 per cent of the average precipitation for August and September.

“We had a real blessing in those June rains because it became dry for a long time after that,” said B.C. meteorologist Doug Lundquist.

But the wet spring still translated to much higher levels of precipitation in 2012 for most of B.C., especially along the U.S. border.

“Right along the U.S. border where the rains were at their heaviest in June, despite of the dryness we had in summer and early fall, we ended up with above average precipitation through the whole year,” said Lundquist.

Cranbrook recorded 519 centimetres of precipitation throughout the year, which is 135 per cent of normal.

Overall, the average temperature in 2012 in Cranbrook was 6.6 degrees Celsius, almost a degree higher than normal.

Canada’s top weather stories for 2012, according to Environment Canada, include the overall temperature increases across the country (#1), Super Storm Sandy (#2), the east coast and prairies’ March heat wave (#4), the prairies’ warm, wet and wild summer (#5), sea ice melt in the Arctic (#6), a hot and dry summer for eastern Canada (#7), spring flooding in urban areas (#8), Calgary’s August 12 hail storm (#9), and ice jam flooding on the Saint John river (#10).

“Believe it or not, people want to be on this list. I keep saying it’s the worst dressed list, not the best dressed. You don’t want to be known for some weather misery,” said David Phillips.

For more detail on the worst weather, visit www.ec.gc.ca/meteo-weather.