Category: weather

Can you stand the rain?

Rain clouds over Vancouver
Rain clouds over Vancouver

Someone (Neal) emailed me recently and asked me to write about the rain. He said this was the elephant in the room. The topic that we don’t talk about, but is on our mind anyway.

By chance Neal’s email was well timed, arriving just before a major winter storm. As I write this we are in the lull between storms – the next one is due in the next day or so. You could say we have water on the brain just now.
I will agree with Neal and say that Vancouver does have a rep for being rainy. The rep is justified if you look at the rainfall figures. 
When I first got Neal’s email I thought that he was not right. My feeling was that we did have rain but it was not that much. So I had a look at the figures so I could tell him that compared to the UK we were not much different. Turns out I was wrong. We do get more rain. Maybe twice as much.
But wait. Why did I think that our rainfall wasn’t so bad? I don’t know. Really. Maybe I am not that observant. Maybe the rain comes down really hard and then clears up – rather than having light rain all day, we have downpours.
I think Vancouverites are kind of proud of the rain. We have restaurants like Raincity Grill which celebrate our reputation (and local produce). I have seen various t-shirts with Vancouver, rain and umbrellas in the design.
The pride in our rain also comes from the fact that our sea level winter temperatures are still mild. So rain that falls does not need to be shovelled. It is rarely an inconvenience. And for the winter sports fan, rain here means snow on the local mountains or in Whistler. Snow on the mountains where you can play in it, not on the street where you need to shovel it. A neat arrangement.
Rain is a fact of life here as elsewhere. If you really hate rain or think it could be a problem, then definitely plan a trip here in the winter. See for yourself. Play on the mountains whilst you are here, but walk around in the rain. See how Vancouverites cope. Maybe you will be able to make friends with the elephant in the room.

More snow

Vancouver woke up to snow again. Like pretty much everyone else I was not thrilled by this. OK, the forecast was for a small amount of snow, and for it to disappear pretty quickly, but our recent snowbound experience means snow means inconvenience and shovelling.

Even with 5-10cm predicted, I took the precaution of parking my car at the top of our driveway. The drive is steep enough that ice and snow make getting up it very difficult. I noticed that my neighbours had done the same with their vehicles.

The snow did come but only for the morning. In the afternoon we saw the more familiar sight of rain. The lawn reappeared. Now we just need the sun to reappear too.

Fog and temperature inversions

Looking down on the fog in Vancouver
Looking down on the fog in Vancouver

I may turn this into a weather blog the way things are going. Here in Vancouver we have had snow, rain, floods and now fog. Without getting too (or even at all) technical I can say that the cold weather at sea level and the warmer weather above has trapped the fog at sea level. A lot of the Burrard Inlet and the lower reaches of the north shore have been shrouded in fog all week.

This can make for some crazy experiences. If you are reading this on the web site you will see the photo that my friend Geoff took from Cypress Mountain this week. You can see the fog blanket below. What you can’t see, is that Geoff and other skiers and boarders on the north shore mountains were in t-shirts. It may have been freezing at sea level but on the mountain slopes it was 15° or more.

I wanted to take a picture of the fog too, and headed up to the view point on Cypress but there were so many others doing the same thing that I was turned away.

The fog is due to go tomorrow.


Tip: don't let the snow build up!
Tip: don't let the snow build up!

We have learned just how ill prepared we are when it comes to real snow. Vancouver had 89cm of snow in December. To put this in perspective this is more than five times the December average (16cm) and is double the annual average for Vancouver.

Vancouver has blown its snow clearing budget, having spent $2.8 million (twice the budget). And even at the beginning of this week you could only expect to find the major roads cleared. All the side roads we passed were impassable.

We learned a few things over this period.

Keep clearing the drive way. Heavy snowfall might mean shoveling twice a day or more. If you let it pile up then it will be much harder to clear later on.

When you are clearing it, consider carefully where you are going to create your new snowbank. Our neighbour cleared her drive and left a barrier halfway across ours. That would have been ok if we had not created another barrier on the other side. We eventually had to dig my car out of a 3ft snowbank of our own making.

Snowplows are great at keeping the main roads clear, but in so doing they tend to make a pile of snow on each side of the road. If you are parked off the side of the road, you might need to dig your way out. When you return the snowplow may have been back again and made a new snow barrier stopping you returning to your parking spot.

Bad weather often brings power cuts. We had a spectacular display from the nearby hydro pole when a falling branch took out the power lines. Our neighbour came by to see if we were ok as she had seen so many sparks she thought we must be on fire. Luckily we only lost power for half a day.

I am sure there are lots of other tips I could add, but like most Vancouverites I don’t expect snow to be an inconvenience – more a recreational choice. Unless the weather pattern changes substantially Vancouverites will remain amateurs in living through harsh winters.

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