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Environment Canada predicts incoming atmospheric river won’t hit like 2021 event

Heavy rain in Thursday’s forecast for the Island
Flooding during the 2021 atmospheric river event closed the Malahat portion of the Trans-Canada Highway. (File courtesy Emcon Services Inc.)

An incoming atmospheric river set to hit Vancouver Island later this week is “nothing comparable to last year” according to Environment Canada.

Atmospheric rivers are strips of tropical, moist air, that move from hotter regions up the coast, and vary in size. While this system will bring a lot of rain to the Island on Thursday, it’s much smaller than the one that hit Vancouver Island and the mainland last year, according to Derek Lee, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

“The models show it’s a very narrow band. How wide the atmospheric river determines how much chaos is caused.”

Lee pointed to the difference between the forecasts for western and eastern Vancouver Island. Western portions of the Island, which are usually rainier, are set for between 60 and 100 millimetres of rain, whereas, eastern Vancouver Island, including Greater Victoria, is looking at between five and 20 millimetres of rain.

The same system that’s set to hit the Island on Thursday has also caused a special weather statement for high rain and wind for the central and north coast of B.C., as of Tuesday (Oct. 25). Lee said there may be a similar statement for the Island come Thursday, but a final decision hasn’t been made.

The province warned residents on Oct. 13 to prepare for flooding, saying the past months’ dry weather could make flooding worse because heavy rain could hit before it has time to soak through dry soil.

A trio of atmospheric rivers caused widespread flooding in parts of Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and the Southern Interior between Nov. 13 and Dec. 2, 2021.

Greg Moy, manager of government relations for the Pacific region with the Insurance Bureau of Canada told delegates at the 2022 Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention that insured losses from those atmospheric rivers totalled $675 million.

That figure made the flooding during the fall of 2021 the eighth most expensive natural disaster in Canada in terms of insurance payouts.

READ MORE: 2021 atmospheric rivers cost $675M in insurance losses, were Canada’s 8th worst natural disaster

READ MORE: B.C. communities warned to prepare for flooding when rain hits drought-ridden areas


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