Known for its rains and mild winters, the west coast of British Columbia received an unexpected white Christmas as much of Western Canada shook with extreme cold warnings and parts of Ontario suffered from freezing drizzle.
“We only get one every 11 years or so. That’s how rare it is, ”Environment Canada meteorologist Gregg Walters said of the two to five centimeters Vancouver and surrounding areas saw on Saturday.
The criteria are a little tough, Walters admitted. Technically, there must be two inches on the ground at 7 a.m. for it to count as a real White Christmas, and he said it didn’t start snowing until later on Christmas morning.
“The last time we had snow on Christmas Day was in 2017,” he noted, although he was not sure two centimeters had accumulated by then.
Most of the people who posted pictures of the Christmas snowfall in Vancouver on social media weren’t obsessed with the technical details. At Sunset Beach, one person even posted a video of children sledding on a hill.
Other images showed fresh snow on residential streets, clear of tire tracks with so few people traveling on vacation.
Across the Strait of Georgia on Vancouver Island, Tom Vanderhoek called the snowy scene “quite magical” when he and his wife watched in Parksville, northwest of Nanaimo.
“As long as you don’t have to go out on the roads and everyone sit and squat around the Christmas tree and have some eggnog and rum, and put the turkey in the oven, it ‘It’s about as magical in my eyes as you can get it for Christmas, ”Vanderhoek said of the snow.
“I grew up in 100 Mile House (in the interior of BC) so we saw quite a few. Before, we wished we didn’t have a white Halloween, ”he joked.
Unfortunately, Vanderhoek had to get out and he was talking from the parking lot of a veterinary practice in Nanaimo. Friends had gone out for a walk with their dog on the beach, he said, where he may have eaten something he shouldn’t have.
The prognosis was good, however.
Vancouver International Airport officials reported only a few minor delays, mostly due to the need to de-ice planes.
The airport’s website always advised passengers to check with their airline before heading to the airport and allow extra time for the journey.
Walters said the unusual weather was due to very cold air in the interior of the province which was drawn to the coast by an area of low pressure on the west side of Vancouver Island. Another five centimeters was scheduled for Saturday night, he said, before the air dries up and the snow stops.
The area’s cold weather is expected to continue for days, meaning the snow on the ground will not melt.
Such situations have happened before, Walters said. On Christmas Day 2008, there was 41 centimeters of snow on the ground at the airport.
“It was the year before the Olympics. The Olympics were held next year and we didn’t have that much snow, ”he said.
Meanwhile, extreme cold warnings remained in effect in an area stretching from British Columbia to Alberta and Saskatchewan, and parts of Manitoba. Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon all recorded temperatures below -25 on Saturday.
Further east, Ottawa and Montreal experienced light snow and freezing drizzle.
Toronto, meanwhile, had a hazy Christmas closer to the Vancouver norm.
It hit 7 ° C on Saturday in Canada’s most populous city, far from the Christmas Day average of -0.5 ° C in Toronto.
—By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
The Canadian Press
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Christmas News and Weather