British Columbia

1,600 lightning strikes illuminate B.C.'s South Coast after sweltering weekend

Parts of B.C.'s South Coast were treated to a dazzling lightning show Sunday night, after temperature records were broken across the southern part of the province.

At least 3 new spot fires flared on Sunday in the Nanaimo area

Lightning flashes across Vancouver on Sunday, Aug. 16. (Submitted by Damian Connolly)

Parts of B.C.'s South Coast were treated to a dazzling lightning show Sunday night.

Between 5 p.m. Sunday and 5 a.m. Monday, about 1,600 lightning strikes flashed across southern Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and the western parts of the Lower Mainland, Environment Canada meteorologist Trevor Smith said

"It's somewhat unusual to see that number of lightning strikes," he said. 

This weekend's heat was to blame for the storm, which swept across the South Coast before moving into the central Interior, after a high-pressure ridge of warm air broke down. 

"There's a lot of buildup of energy in the lower atmosphere," Smith said.

"When we see a small disturbance moving up from the south — just a little bit of cooling in the higher levels in the atmosphere — it destabilizes things enough to get these high-level thunderstorm clouds to develop." 


Smith noted the show wasn't technically dry lightning, which occurs when the lower atmosphere is dry and precipitation evaporates before it reaches the ground. 

Vancouver Island saw a few showers, although the rain wasn't heavy like a typical thunderstorm.

What about that sunset?

Social media also lit up with photos of Sunday evening's majestic sunset.

CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said it was the result of fine particulate matter in the air, which led to some haze and an air quality advisory for eastern parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

The light was able to bounce off more particles in the atmosphere, producing surreal colours.


Wildfire risk

The B.C. Wildfire Service reported 10 new fires in the past two days, including at least three new spot fires that flared on Sunday in the Nanaimo area.

Smith noted lightning without precipitation poses the greatest risk for wildfires. 

A fire burns in the Pemberton Valley above Miller Creek on Vancouver Island. (Submitted by Robbie J. Stevens)

Fire danger ratings across much of the lower third of the province are ranked high to extreme, but a weekend of torrential rain in northwestern B.C., means the fire risk there is listed as very low.

Temperature records broken

Environment Canada is forecasting another day of sizzling heat through much of British Columbia's southern Interior, Okanagan and Fraser Canyon.

The weather office says 13 temperature records were broken or tied across southern B.C. on Sunday.

The Fraser Canyon community of Lytton was the hot spot in Canada at 41.2 C, which broke the old record of 40.4 set 12 years ago.

Heat warnings remain posted for the Fraser Canyon, as well as the Okanagan, North and South Thompson, Cariboo and 100 Mile regions.

Forecasters say temperatures are expected to moderate slightly but remain at least in the mid-30s.

With files from The Canadian Press


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