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Tropical punch left everyone all wet

Ski areas across B.C., Washington hit by warm, wet weather

An Environment Canada meteorologist confirmed Tuesday that the Sea to Sky corridor has had one of the wettest Januarys since records of weather in the area began in 1931.

But if it’s any consolation to businesses in the corridor other mountain resorts in B.C. have also had a lot of bad weather.

"The tropical punch produced four consecutive days (Jan 17-20) of rainfalls greater than 25 millimetres or 1 inch, and there is no precedent for that in our database," said Environment Canada Meteorologist David Jones.

"The only other comparable event for total rainfall and/or duration occurred in October 2003. The 2003 storm was crudely dubbed a one in 200 year event. It is intriguing that 15 months later, we've experienced a storm of similar magnitude and greater impact province-wide."

The Whistler area received three times the amount of rain it usually gets in January and most of that rain fell in the space of a week, said Jones.

He added that there were only a few light flurries, periods of sun and showers forecasted for the next 10 days. The freezing level should also remain high.

"At our station at Alta Lake in Whistler we’ve recorded 208 millimetres of rain this month," said Jones. "The average… is 69 mm, so that’s what you normally get in January, which means you’ve had around three times the normal amount."

The snowmelt had also contributed to the situation and it had been worse higher in the alpine, said Jones.

"I’ve been speaking with the weather forecasters in Whistler and at the Pig Alley station they had 450 mm of rain."

Jones said warm, moist air coming in from the south Pacific was responsible.

"The freezing levels shot way up with the storm and it was all rain below 1,800 metres. This was truly a rare and exceptional event."

Pemberton was put on flood alert during the worst of the rain and Mayor Elinor Warner was full of praise for the people who attended the emergency meetings.

"If you’re going to write anything write about our emergency people because they’re good," said Warner.

"(RCMP Staff Sergeant) Norm McPhail won some awards with his work at the Kelowna fires so he brought a lot of great expertise to the table. And also with the press releases and information that (Constable) Devon Jones put out, that really took a lot of pressure off me.

"We’re doing a revision of our emergency plan and we’re meeting on Thursday about it but it’s been a good practice run and I think it works well."

Constable Jones confirmed that many of the waterways around Pemberton were now flowing well but there was still some work to be done in the communities along the Lillooet Lake Forest road (or In-SHUCK-ch road).

Elsewhere in B.C. several resorts have had rain, but Mount Washington on Vancouver Island has been hit the hardest. Public Relations Director Dave Hampshire said management had sent hundreds of workers home and were down to just 25 staff.

"It’s insane really and the saddest part is the people we’ve had to lay off," said Hampshire.

"There’s more brown (mud) out there than there is white. It looks like the end of May, in fact I’ve seen more snow on the bunny area in June than there is today."

The last time Mount Washington shut down in January was in 1981 but Hampshire said management was trying to remain positive.

"We’re not done for the season yet, it’s still just the end of January."

At Kimberley last week, some ski races for disabled athletes had to be cancelled because of rain. Fernie and Sun Peaks also saw some rain.

Red Mountain Resort in south-eastern B.C. had a 63 cm dump of snow right before the rain started and then —20 C temperatures afterwards so it still has a base of between 140 and 170 cm and most runs are open.

Kicking Horse Resort has also been "lucky" with snow. General Manager of Kicking Horse Justin Downes said his resort had been spared in some ways because the freezing levels remained low.

"We feel very lucky because we seem to be picking up quite a lot of business from our neighbours in the south and to the west," said Downes.

In Washington state, The Summit, White Pass and Stevens Pass ski areas will be closed this weekend. At Crystal Mountain, only the top lift offers any skiing.