British Columbia

'Back to regular programming': Rain on the way for Lower Mainland

After getting pummelled with more than three times the region's average January snowfall in less than a week, Metro Vancouver can soon expect a return to rain.

A weekend of rain could wash the snow away — and potentially cause flooding

People cross the road during the morning commute in Vancouver on Jan. 16, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Here today, gone tomorrow — almost.

After getting pummelled with more than three times the region's average January snowfall in less than a week, Metro Vancouver can soon expect a return to rain.

But old man winter's not quite done yet. 

"We'll have a bit more snow possibly into tonight and tomorrow morning," said Bobby Sekhon, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Up to five centimetres of wet snow could fall. 

"But then after that we start to transition to a warmer air mass. Friday night into Saturday is when we're expecting rain to return."

Calling it a return to "regular programming," Sekhon added that all this snow could be gone in just a few days.

Expect the rain to continue well into the work week, along with milder temperatures more typical of a West Coast winter.

"From Saturday beyond, if you're looking at your forecast, it's pretty well going to show rain every single day," said CBC Vancouver meteorologist Brett Soderholm. 

That comes with its own issues. As snow melts, parts of Metro Vancouver could experience flooding, though it's difficult to pinpoint what areas are most at risk. 

In anticipation of rain, the City of Vancouver's engineering department is clearing snow from storm drains, also known as catch basins, to avoid any potential flooding. The city encourages residents to do the same. 

"When catch basins are not draining despite being cleared, the city will be actively responding to flooding calls," read a news release Thursday morning. 

Since last Thursday, city employees have worked around the clock plowing main roads, clearing sidewalks and sprinkling salt far and wide. Nevertheless, traffic and transit delays abounded across Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. 

"The challenge is the amount of snow that came in the timeframe it came," said Erin Watts, the City of Vancouver's manager of street operations. 

"We always have lessons with every snow event and every winter season," she added. "This season will be no different."

The city forecasts current expenditures on snow response at around $1.5 million, including $500,000 spent on salt alone.

According to CBC's Soderholm, it's hard not to understate how unusual these back-to-back-to-back snowstorms are for the South Coast. 

Though climate change is associated with an increase in extreme weather, Soderholm said it's not possible to definitively link climate change with individual weather events. 

As for Watts, she hopes residents will be more prepared the next time a major snowstorm hits. 

"We really try and share the message to buy that salt in advance, have those shovels [...] have those winter tires put on the car in advance—it really makes all the difference," she said. 

"And just having a little bit of patience when the snow falls as heavy as it does."

Warming centres at Britannia Community Centre, Powell Street Getaway and the Overdose Prevention Society will remain open through Friday, Jan. 17. Anyone is welcome, carts and pets included, and hot drinks and snacks will be available.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that temperatures in Vancouver on Jan. 14 fell to –8 C, its coldest day in more than 10 years. In fact, on Jan. 14, Vancouver International Airport recorded its coldest daytime high temperature in more than 10 years, with a reading of –6.2 C.
    Jan 17, 2020 11:46 AM PT

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