Feature - Going to extremes 

Climate experts say we should prepare for more extreme weather events

The water levels are back to normal in the Sea to Sky corridor, but evidence of a record October rainstorm is everywhere.

Many residents in Squamish and Pemberton are still cleaning out their basements, some of which were completely flooded. Carpets and drywall are being ripped up, spoiled belongings are being carried off to the dump.

BC Rail worked around the clock to restore basic freight service between North Vancouver and Lillooet, replacing wrecked bridges and rail beds along sections of the Cheakamus River and Rutherford Creek.

Two lanes of highway between Whistler and Squamish are open again, although a telltale scar of black asphalt shows where one lane of the highway was swept away.

The road link between Whistler and Pemberton was reopened with a temporary one lane bridge over Rutherford Creek, which will be in place until a more permanent two-lane bridge can be built next year.

In the meantime the temporary bridge serves as a sobering reminder of the real human costs of the disaster – four young men dead, including the father of a four month-old child.

Throughout the corridor, sections of roads and trails have been washed out. Decades of erosion seemed to take place overnight as rivers and creeks jumped their banks.

In just four days, the Squamish area received approximately 369 millimetres of rain. By way of comparison, the average rainfall for Squamish for the entire month of October is about 279 mm.

Because of a technical malfunction there aren’t any precipitation statistics for Whistler, but it was thought to be on par with Squamish. According to a B.C. Hydro representative, enough water fell locally in those four days to fill the Daisy Lake reservoir three times over.

Some meteorologists have billed the record breaking rains, which were delivered to the coast by a relatively common weather phenomenon known as a "Pineapple Express", as a 100-year-storm.

While that explanation seems to satisfy some people, there are those who believe that these kinds of extreme weather events are going to become more and more common as the earth’s climate changes.

Looking back at the past year, B.C.’s weather has bounced from one extreme to another. Consider:

An unusually mild fall led to a late start to the ski season for Whistler, which was off-set by a near-record snowfall on Christmas Day. The mountains surrounding Vancouver had terrible seasons and were forced to close on occasion as the unusually warm winter temperatures even made snowmaking impossible.

In February, a sudden windstorm gusted in excess of 130 km/h in town, trapping thousands of people on chairlifts and in lodges on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Hundreds of trees were knocked over on the mountain and in the valley.


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