Showers by end of the week will end Island hot streak

Soak up the sun while it lasts.

Environment Canada says a cooler marine air mass is moving in from the Pacific that will drop temperatures to the mid-teens and bring clouds and showers to much of Vancouver Island by the end of the week.

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Islanders have been relishing in unseasonable warm conditions and sunshine over the past week as a high pressure ridge sent temperature records tumbling over the weekend and people flocking to beaches and parks.

The temperature topped 23.1 C in the Comox Valley on Sunday, smashing the same-day record of 19.4 set in 1956. Campbell River reached 25.3 C and surpassed the 21 C mark established in 2016.

It was also warm in Port Hardy Sunday at 20.7 C, eclipsing the 18.4 set in 1989.

The Victoria Harbour area, which has records dating to 1874, set a record of 24 C on Saturday, beating the old mark of 21.1 C in 1939, while Victoria International Airport, which has records dating to 1914, set a record of 21.8 C, topping the of 19.9 C set in 2016.

Esquimalt hit 24.4 C on Saturday, toppling the old mark of 21.1 set in 1939, and the Malahat area set a new mark of 22.4 C, smashing the old record of 18.8 C set in 1994.

Estevan Point set a new record of 20 C, up from 17 C in in 2016, while Port Alberni was a scorching 27.1 C, edging past the old record of 26.7 C set in 1939.

Environment Canada Meteorologist Lisa Erven said rain is expected across the Island starting on Friday.

The expected precipitation follows the third driest March on record for Victoria International Airport and a parched start to April.

The Victoria airport station has reported just 5.4 millimetres of precipitation so far this month, far from the average of 47.7 for the month. The station at Gonzales Hill in Fairfield was at 7.6mm this month, down from the average of 28.5.

Juergen Ehlting, a director and associate professor at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Forest Biology, said spring rainfall is essential for tree health, particularly in urban forests where there is little ground cover to preserve moisture.

Ehlting said heavy rains late this winter on Vancouver Island helped trees store sufficient moisture to withstand a dry spring and summer. But he’s concerned for the health of some species, including Western red cedar, which are showing signs of distress after successive summers of drought.

“They can tolerate one or two dry summers, but with five or six in a row, it starts to overwhelm the cedars,” he said.

The B.C. Wildfire Service has ratcheted up its warnings in all areas of the province.

Vancouver Island and vast parts of the Interior are under a “moderate” danger rating for wildfires as warm, dry winds funneled through mountain valleys to the coast have dried out twigs, branches and grasses on forest floors over the past two weeks.

Donna MacPherson, a B.C. Wildfire Service spokeswoman based in Parksville, said a “moderate” assessment means forest fuels are drying and there is an increased risk of surface fires starting.

She said although there are no bans on campfires or pile burnings, any forest activities under this rating should be “carried out with caution.”

“We are concerned that people aren’t aware of how dry it really is out there,” she said.

MacPherson said the Wildfire Service was called for assistance on two small roadside fires over the weekend near Nanaimo and at Hovey Place in Saanich. Neither caused any damage but showed the risk is there.

dkloster@timescolonist.com

— With files from Andrew Duffy

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