British Columbia

Next atmospheric river on its way to B.C., bringing heavy rain and hope to drought-stricken areas

The next atmospheric river of the season is forecast to bring heavy rain to coastal British Columbia by late Thursday and this one could drench drought-stricken areas that have been bypassed by recent storms.

Up to 80 mm expected for coastal areas by late Thursday, as some areas remain on highest drought level

Environment Canada is forecasting up to 80 mm of rain through Saturday for western Vancouver Island and as much as 60 mm for the Lower Mainland. (CBC)

The next atmospheric river of the season is forecast to bring heavy rain to coastal British Columbia by late Thursday and this one could drench drought-stricken areas that have been bypassed by recent storms.

Rain is predicted to be heaviest on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where about 80 millimetres could fall in less than 36 hours, while Environment Canada models show some Metro Vancouver communities could receive 60 millimetres or more.

Models show 40-50 millimetres of rain is forecast through Saturday in Comox on Vancouver Island and in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast, which are both still ranked at drought Level 5, the most severe rating on the province's drought scale.

Vancouver Island, the inner South Coast, parts of the southern Interior and all of northeastern B.C. are listed at either level 4 or 5, meaning damaging effects of the dry conditions are "likely" or "almost certain."

Comox recorded just 22 millimetres of rain in October, around 100 millimetres below its average, but Environment Canada says end-of-the month downpours helped push many regions closer to seasonal averages.

After almost no rain since early July, the weather office says nearly 70 millimetres fell on Sechelt in the final days of October, enough to ease extraordinary water restrictions at midnight Tuesday that shuttered numerous businesses, including the local ice rink.

However, the rain isn't enough for the district to lift water conservation orders or a drought-induced local state of emergency.

A statement from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) issued Monday said the "cautious'' easing of the Oct. 18 restrictions was approved as recent rain boosted flows from its severely depleted main reservoir, which serves about 90 per cent of homes and businesses on the lower Sunshine Coast.

If more rain doesn't come or temperatures drop to freezing, the district said it would consider returning to water restrictions for non-essential businesses such as breweries and gravel, concrete and asphalt companies.

"We are very much concerned that the water supply may still be at risk in upcoming weeks," said Remko Rosenboom, general manager of infrastructure services for the SCRD. 

Rosenboom said the area would require 20 millimetres of rain a day for a whole week to be able to penetrate the dried out soil in the area. Though rainfall over the last two weeks has helped, he said it's not enough. 

"There is rain falling but it's not infiltrating into the ground," he told CBC News. "There's a lot of water just running to the sea and we're not able to capture it in the soil."

With files from Jessica Cheung

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