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Vancouver Island braces for onslaught of storms

They’re coming at us fast and furious, meteorologist says
View from a traffic cam of the Patricia Bay Highway looking south at Mount Newton Cross Road on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.

Storm after storm after storm will lash Vancouver Island with heavy rain and bursts of wind for the next week, Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald said Tuesday.

“We’ve seen a big change in the weather pattern. Last week, we were under Arctic air all week, delivering nice, crisp, sunny conditions,” said MacDonald.

“The shift happened on Sunday. We’re now into a very active storm pattern. There’s a whole series of storms lined up right across the Pacific.

“They’re coming at us fast and furious.”

Tuesday’s strong front brought winds of more than of 100 kilometres per hour through the Strait of Georgia.

“But even closer to the coast, stations like Comox picked up gusts of 70 kilometres per hour, which is quite strong as well. And Sand Heads lightstation near Tsawwassen ferry terminal saw gusts of upwards of 73 kilometres per hour,” said the meteorologist.

B.C. Ferries cancelled some sailings due to the bad weather. The Spirit of British Columbia cancelled its 11 a.m. sailing from Tsawwassen and the 1 p.m. sailing from Swartz Bay due to high winds. Other sailings around the fleet were delayed until it was deemed safe to travel.

Rain bucketed down, creating puddles on sidewalks and in parking lots. From 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., the east side of Vancouver Island received 20 to 30 mm of rain. The Malahat picked up 40 mm, Esquimalt Harbour received 30 mm and 26 mm fell on the University of Victoria. It was drier at Victoria International Airport with only 13 mm of rain.

“We definitely got a good douse of rain out of this frontal system and it’s packing quite a bit of moisture,” said MacDonald.

The Capital Regional District issued an advisory warning residents that the heavy rain caused combined stormwater and wastewater overflows along some shorelines. Signs warning of the potential health risk were posted at Cadboro Bay, McNeill Bay and on beaches between Fraser Street and Victoria View Road in Esquimalt.

By 2 p.m., the front pushed through the island and the strong southeast winds at the head of the front started to ease around 2 p.m.

Another storm will reach Vancouver Island Wednesday evening and deliver another round of 10 to 20 mm of rain. Conditions will be breezy, but wind warnings are unlikely.

On Friday, a “particularly deep storm” is forecast, with even stronger winds than Tuesday’s system, said MacDonald. “There’s quite a bit of uncertainty with that storm. Different models have different projections. But the potential is there for a pretty significant storm on Friday and yet another one on Saturday. It’s storm after storm well into the beginning of next week.”

This storms brought snowfall accumulations to the alpine. Mount Washington picked up 30 cm of snow.

Although there are pauses between these storms, MacDonald said it’s looking like there may be a prolonged rainfall system from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening.

“I really encourage people to stay tuned to the weather forecast. It’s a good time of year to revisit those emergency preparedness kits, making sure you have flashlights and radios and batteries,” he said. “The potential is there for a wind event this weekend.”

The storms should ease during the second part of next week. Weather conditions should be a lot quieter from Dec. 21 onwards which means the chance of a white Christmas is low.

Historically, there’s a 10 per cent chance snow will fall in Victoria on Christmas Day, said MacDonald.

“Right now we’re not seeing any potential for snow. The outlook looks relatively mild right through the end of December.”

In some respects, the heavy rain is a good news story, he said. After a significant drought this summer, a lot of reservoirs and rivers were at very low levels. “All this rain will serve to refill those pretty effectively.”

The Sooke Lake Reservoir is now 77.6 per cent full.

— With a file from Andrew Duffy