Campbell River region hit by wet and windy start to 2012

January has started with wind and rainfall warnings for the region

It’s been a wet and blustery start to 2012 in the Campbell River region, after a cool and dry December.

According to Environment Canada statistics, the total precipitation for December 2011 was only 113 mm, compared to a 30 year average of 218mm. And of that 113 mm last month,  24.8 mm fell on just one wet day – Dec. 27.

In contrast, January has started with wind and rainfall warnings for the region on Jan. 3 and 4, which led to ferry cancellations, flood warnings and left more than 1,500 homes without power throughout the region.

About 120 mm of rain fell on the east coast of the Island at B.C. Hydro’s Cruikshank rain gauge from Tuesday to Wednesday morning, according to the river forecast centre.

Other areas of the central and north Island saw storm-force winds gusting to about 80 km/h and were forecasted to see about 100 mm of rainfall by Thursday.

This Pineapple Express phenomenon that blew through also brought with it warmer temperatures and an increased risk of flooding, but thanks to the dryer months leading up to this storm, local reservoirs held through this storm. But with wet weather expected over the weekend, BC Hydro will be releasing water, and has issued a public warning.

“BC Hydro has issued a public safety advisory for the public to stay away from the Campbell River along the stretch of river between the John Hart Dam and the estuary, from Friday evening through Monday,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson. “High river flows will be in place for flood risk management as a result of the recent storm activity and a potential storm that may hit the region on Sunday. There is no risk for downstream flooding.”

BC Hydro can absorb high inflows into the Upper Campbell River/Buttle Lake as downstream rivers like the Quinsam peak. Then as they subside, BC Hydro can release water from its dams to limit potential downstream flooding.

“With the recent storm event that hit Tuesday and peaked on Wednesday, the 6,730 hectare surface area reservoir had increased by 1.1 m to 218.7 m in 36 hours by Thursday morning,” Watson said.

In consideration for flood risk management, BC Hydro will initiate a spill of up to 50 m3/s down the Elk Falls Canyon commencing Friday afternoon. Watson said it has been an interesting year of water flows in the Campbell River water system, with only three significant events – including a once-in-a-decade storm in late November.

Flooding was reported Wednesday morning along Highway 19 at Cook Creek Road, south of Campbell River.

The last few days of December saw nearly a metre of snow fall on Mount Washington. With avalanche dangers running high across the province, parts of the mountain were closed Wednesday with the note that slopes needed to stabilize before it could be re-opened.

According to Environment Canada’s 30 years statistics, Campbell River ranks as the fifth rainiest of Canada’s 100 largest cities, and has the second least sunshine year round, behind only Prince Rupert.