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Brrrr: Thursday broke records for coldest May 12 in Vancouver area

You're not imagining it. May has featured unseasonably cold temperatures on B.C.'s South Coast.
Bring out the umbrellas — rainfall amounts of 50 to 75 mm expected
Brrr. May has been both colder and wetter than usual so far on British Columbia's South Coast.

If you’ve been wondering when you’ll be able to exchange the toque and raincoat for some shorts and sandals and get out in the garden or bask in some sunshine, you’re not alone.

And the answer from Environment Canada is Not Quite Yet.

No, you aren’t imagining it.

Baby, it’s still cold outside.

Daytime temperatures in the Lower Mainland have been hovering at least five degrees below normal so far this month, thanks to a lingering La Nina weather pattern, said Brian Proctor, meteorologist with Environment Canada.

“It’s really delayed the onset of spring,” he said.

Thursday among the coldest May 12 days on record

Thursday, May 12, was one of the coolest on record in many parts of the South Coast, said Proctor, breaking longstanding temperature records in many communities. “We had a very very cool Thursday,” said Proctor.

In Nanaimo, a temperature for a daytime high of 8.9 C at the airport broke a record set in 1911 for the coldest May 12 on record, said Proctor.

West Vancouver also recorded a daytime high of just 8.9 degrees, breaking the previous record for a cold daytime high on the North Shore.

The temperature in Greater Vancouver as a whole on Thursday was just 10.5 degrees, breaking the previous record for a cold daytime temperature on that day, set in 1964.

Rainfall records also fell in some communities

Thursday was also very wet, breaking records for rainfall in Powell River, which recorded 45.5 millimetres of rain, and in Sechelt, which recorded 32.6 mm.

Although it didn’t break records, West Vancouver recorded almost 22 millimetres of rain that day.

The cold spring is mostly due to the continuing effects of La Nina, said Proctor, in which cold air from Alaska and the Yukon comes south and settles over B.C.

La Nina was responsible for the cold temperatures in December and January, said Proctor, then seemed to let up a bit in early spring, before coming back with a vengeance.

Usual daytime highs for this time of year are 17 or 18 degrees, he said. Overnight low temperatures – usually around 8 or 9 degrees – are also down, but not as much as daytime temperatures.

“At higher elevations, we’ve been accumulating snow,” he added.

Don't plant out those tomatoes yet!

For green thumbs eager to get out in the garden, Kelly Milligan, manager of Dykhoff Nurseries in North Vancouver, warns it’s best to proceed with caution.

Leafy greens like spinach, lettuce, and kale can withstand lower temperatures, she said, but anything more delicate – like tomatoes – should not be planted outside yet.

Overnight temperatures need to be a consistent 10 degrees before heat-loving plants should be planted outside, she said.

Nurseries around the Lower Mainland are now babying their warm-weather-loving seedlings in greenhouses until temperatures warm up, she said.

Proctor said there’s no significant warming trend expected in the next few weeks. That will hopefully start to change in mid- to late-June, he said, when a more normal weather pattern should resume.

“So we've got to get through this May and June gloom, to get us into that more normal summer-like pattern,” he said.

So far there aren’t any indications of extraordinary heat waves coming, like B.C. experienced last summer, said Proctor. “It’s looking like a much more normal summer.”