Canada's top 10 weather stories for 2014: British Columbia highlights

1. Deadly Avalanches

Winter 2013-14 brought 13 fatalities due to avalanches in British Columbia and Alberta, including snowmobilers, backcountry skiers, hikers, and a father and son who had gone tobogganing. Up from six deaths last year, it was close to the 10-year average of 12 fatalities. Conditions in the mountains were troublesome at times, with deep snow making it difficult to locate weaker underlying layers that are associated with unstable layers conducive to snowslides. Avalanche conditions in February were the worst in years. Sustained dry weather had created an underlying snow layer featuring a hard, smooth surface. New snows of up to two metres fell on top and began compacting but didn’t stick well to the slabs underneath.

2. Snow Drought on Mount Washington

While much of the rest of North America was caught up in a polar vortex deep-freeze, the West Coast was unseasonably mild and at times shrouded in fog. The impact to ski resorts was felt widely, including the mid-January closing of  Mount Washington ski resort due to lack of snow that involved lay-offs of more than 400 workers. On January 5, 2013, the resort had about 350 cm of snow; this year it had 20 cm.

3. Winter Comes to Lotus Land

Snow blanketed several cities along the coast of British Columbia on February 23-24, challenging highways crews but thrilling skiers with the winter’s first substantial snowfall. Vancouver International Airport recorded 15 cm of new snow, while about 25,000 people on southern Vancouver Island lost electricity. In Victoria, the airport was forced to delay and cancel flights because crews had run out of a year’s supply of de-icing liquid in 48 hours. The blast of winter weather came as the city began its famed week-long flower count - an event intended to poke fun at other provinces still in the deep freeze of winter.

4. October Weather Wallop

British Columbia was hit by a series of wind and rain storms during the last ten days of October that featured flash floods and mudslides. The storms lined up over the northern Pacific and struck daily. A blast on October 27 - the remains of tropical storm Ana - knocked down trees and caused road closures, ferry delays and power outages. Wind gusts of up to 90 km/h forced BC Ferries to delay early-morning sailings between Vancouver and Nanaimo. Peak winds of 116 km/h were recorded at Saturna Island, while Port Mellon received the heaviest rains at129 mm. At its height, the severe weather left almost 80,000 BC Hydro customers without electricity overnight.

5. Stormy Season Underway

A strong system pounded Metro Vancouver, the province’s south coast, the Fraser Valley and Howe Sound on November 3 with up to 85 mm of rain. The heavy precipitation led to a torrent of water rushing down mountainsides, overflowing several creeks and culverts, flooding homes and forcing evacuations. A few days later, another storm dropped more than 30 mm in Vancouver. The November rains followed above-average amounts of 184 mm that fell in October.

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