February 08, 2015 - 10:27 AM
KITIMAT, B.C. - The northern British Columbia communities of Kitimat and Terrace were buried in nearly two metres of snow on Saturday, as a stormy Pineapple Express weather system continued to pummel the B.C. coast.
About 168 centimetres of snow fell on Kitimat between 4 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Saturday, while 159 centimetres fell in Terrace during the same time period.
The massive blizzard cut power to thousands of BC Hydro customers, although most had their power restored by Saturday evening. Many businesses were shuttered and residents of both communities were warned to stay indoors.
The District of Kitimat opened its Emergency Operations Centre Friday night in order to organize extra equipment. Private contractors were also brought in to help with road clearing.
Tyler Noble, communications officer for the District of Kitimat, said crews were fighting to keep up with the barrage of snow that fell from Thursday to early Saturday.
"They've been at it for so long, they needed to get some rest in there somewhere as well," he added. "The severity of the snow combined with how long it has been snowing has caused some issues for us."
He said crews were able to clear most arterial roads by Saturday afternoon and were focusing on side streets, but drivers were still being urged to stay home.
"One of the problems that has slowed the snow removal effort here has been that vehicles have been getting stuck all over the place," he said.
Noble added that it was not bitterly cold in Kitimat, with temperatures ranging from -5 C to -1 C, but he urged people to check on their neighbours during the blackouts.
"That's what we're known for in the North, helping each other out," he said, adding that emergency services including ambulances were still available.
The heavy snowfall just fell short of breaking 24-hour records, as 109 cm fell in Kitimat over 24 hours and the previous record was 112.3 centimetres on Feb. 18, 1972, according to Environment Canada.
"It's not a record, but it's still very significant," said Andre Besson, a meteorologist with the federal agency. "It will likely be in the top five."
A Pineapple Express results when a strong flow of moist air that originates near Hawaii moves along the western coast of North America. This warm air overrode the cold Arctic air in northern B.C., causing the heavy snowfall, said Besson.
The system has also caused massive amounts of rain to fall over the south coast of B.C. since Thursday. Besson said about 52.7 millimetres fell in West Vancouver during that period, while 159.1 millimetres fell on Squamish.
Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for Howe Sound on Saturday, with between 30 to 50 millimetres of rain expected to drench the south coast that night.
Besson said flooding was reported in the Arrow Lakes-Slocan Lake region, and a great deal of the interior of western Washington remained under a flood watch Saturday.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015