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Driest spring on record in Kelowna, Vernon has officials concerned

Spring has been extremely dry in Kamloops and the Okanagan with records set.
June 01, 2021 - 3:09 PM

Dry as a bone. That phrase sums up this year's spring weather patterns in Kamloops and the Okanagan.

A lack of rain this spring has shattered records in the region and across the province.

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist says Kelowna had its driest May ever, with only four millimetres of precipitation compared to the 40 mm that usually falls during the month. Vernon finished in fourth place with 10 mm, compared to the 48 mm the city normally gets.

Kelowna records go back to 1969 while Vernon’s go back to 1900.

Penticton was also on the dry side, but not as much, with nine mm of precipitation versus the normal 39 mm. Kamloops got a paltry six mm compared to the usual 27 mm in May.

"Everyone was 10 to 20 per cent of their normal rainfall for May. That’s so low, and spring as whole was even worse,” Lundquist says.

In meteorological terms, spring begins March 1 and ends May 31. Lundquist says during that time frame, the region experienced three consecutive months of a similar dry pattern.

“It’s rare to get three months in a row of similar weather, and we had three very dry months,” he says.

Kelowna had the driest spring ever recorded in the period between March 1 and May 31, as did Vernon, beating 117 years of records.

Penticton was in the top five driest ever and Kamloops was second driest ever.

Here’s how the spring (March 1 to May 31) precipitation figures provided by Environment Canada break down in the Kamloops and Okanagan:

  • Kelowna had 14 mm compared to a normal 86 mm
  • Vernon had 18 mm versus the normal 96 mm
  • Penticton had 29 mm compared to 89 mm which normally falls
  • Kamloops had 10 mm compared to an average of 54 mm

Lundquist says the figures amount to between 15 per cent and 33 per cent of normal rainfall between the four cities.

Temperatures were more or less around average for Kamloops and Okanagan cities in May.

For the spring period Kelowna was one degree above normal, and Vernon was 0.9 degrees above normal. Penticton and Kamloops were close to average over the period.

Lundquist says the “monsoon season” for the B.C. Interior is nearly half over with a week of warm weather ahead.

“That means we’ll be three weeks into the season and only have four weeks left. We’re nearly halfway through the monsoon season with no moisture. We count on that moisture to get us through summer and we’re coming off a record dry spring,” Lundquist says.

The lack of moisture is provincial in nature as Abbotsford and Victoria International Airport set records for driest spring on record. Vancouver was third driest.

Lundquist says at this point the summer outlook is for above normal temperatures for the whole province over the next three months, the Southern Interior in particular. Environment Canada does not make long-term predictions on precipitation.

"The implications are very concerning. I know the folks at B.C. Wildfire are planning hard. I’ve spoken with them. The water stewardship branch is worried about drought and there are implications for agriculture,” Lundquist says.

He says there is still hope for moisture through June, but that hope is dwindling.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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