Rare winter snowstorm pounds islands

  • Jan. 12, 2015 4:00 p.m.

Some islanders woke to a winter wonderland last Sunday (Jan. 4) after a rare winter storm blanketed the islands with a coat of snow. Despite numerous power outages and daunting driving conditions, many islanders happily greeted the storm with mittens and sleds.          Approximately 23 cm of snow fell at Environment Canada’s Masset A station on Sunday Jan. 4, with an additional 3 cm recorded there the following day. In Port Clements, residents Aaron and Christine Cunningham measured 33 cm of freshly fallen snow outside their home. The heavy snowfall was most apparent at Graham Island’s north end, with the deepest accumulated snow settling in Port Clements, Masset, and Old Massett. “What happened was a large arctic high pressure system came down into Western Canada last week,” said Accuweather senior forecaster Brett Anderson. “Then a storm system of warm, moist air from the Pacific ran into it.” The warm, moist air was lifted above the cold air mass, he said, and as the precipitation fell through the arctic air, it turned to snow. The temperature at ground level wasn’t particularly cold, hovering around zero degrees Celsius, but Mr. Anderson said because the heavy, wet snow fell hard, it accumulated. This weighty accumulation was the main cause of multiple power outages across the islands last weekend, said Dave Mosure, Community Relations Coordinator for BC Hydro’s Northern Region.          The combination of high winds and heavy snow pushed trees onto power lines, which at one point left as many as 377 people without power for 14 hours. As well, more than 1300 islanders were left in the dark for just under an hour on Jan. 4 after a fault tripped a circuit breaker at the diesel generating station.          Hydro crews worked day and night to ensure power was restored as soon as possible, he said. They were joined by road maintenance crews that deployed a fleet of plows and graders, clearing and salting municipal streets and highways. Although the snow was an inconvenience to those attending to business or navigating roads, the young and young at heart embraced the fluffy white stuff by bundling up and heading out to play. After all, it could be years before islanders experience a snowstorm of these proportions again.

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