From record cold to storm-force winds and a warning for a strong blast of winter well into the new year, the weather in the Comox Valley was anything but typical in 2011.
In February, a cold snap hit the area, as the the Valley was in a grip of Arctic air, explained Lisa Coldwells, a meteorologist for Environment Canada.
Combined with wind gusts between 50 to 70 km/h, the outside temperature with windchill made the air feel like -18C.
“Although it’s later in the season, this is not unusual. We usually get about two or three Arctic cold snaps in the winter, and we’ve really only had one so far. We had one around this time of the year in 1993, and another in 1957,” Coldwells said.
A cool, late summer, had Comox Valley residents wondering if hot temperatures would ever arrive. When they did in mid-August, they arrived in full force, with temperatures rising so high they broke a 13-year-old record in mid-month.
Temperatures reached 31.2C Aug. 15, breaking the record of 31.0C set in 1997.
Despite the heat, Coldwells noted the hot weather was not completely unusual for that time of the year.
“Usually, we get a few really hot days, and then it breaks down,” she added.
In October, AccuWeather.com, an American weather organization that provides forecasts for locations around the world, announced this winter could be one of the top three coldest winters in the past 20 years for the Vancouver Island.
“La Niña could play a big role this year. It’s a little out of the ordinary for B.C.,” said Brett Anderson, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com. “The strength of the system is critical,” he added.
La Niña, the opposite of El Niño, is a phenomenon that occurs when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal.
The La Niña weather pattern often produces extreme cold outbreaks across Western Canada during the winter due to the influence it has on the jet stream.
Anderson noted because of the forecasted colder temperatures, the Valley could see a lot less moisture because drier, colder air does not generally hold as much moisture as warmer air.
The one upside to the forecast chilly winter is that the system is not predicted to go strong, Anderson added.
In November, the Valley received its first big storm of the season, as winds and heavy rains pounded the area.
With gusts up to 80 km/h recorded at the Comox Valley Airport, BC Ferries cancelled sailings of the Queen of Chilliwack travelling from Comox to Powell River for most of the day.