Winter came to a close while spring sprung this week — though the weather could have fooled us.
A hailstorm hit Courtenay on the first official day of spring Wednesday. The sun came out Thursday, mixed in with more hail as the temperature reached 6C in the Valley. Overnight, however, the mercury continues to dip below freezing.
The unpredictable start to the spring season followed a winter in which total precipitation was close to par at 94 per cent, slightly drier than normal.
“As a whole it doesn’t appear all that exceptional,” said Matt MacDonald, meteorologist with Environment Canada.
December in the Valley was excessively rainy — the wettest since 1993 — with 248 millimetres of rain. The normal amount is 160 mms in December.
January and February were dry months by comparison, only half of normal precipitation in January and 66 per cent in February.
“As a whole, it ends up rounding out close to normal,” MacDonald said.
It was a mild winter overall. The mean temperature was a half degree above normal — which may seem insignificant but makes for a relatively mild winter nonetheless.
The Valley received snow only in December, a total of 32 cms, above the normal snowfall of 21 cms. There was no snow at lower altitudes the rest of winter, whereas January typically features 22 cms and February 10 cms.
MacDonald said ocean temperatures have cooled lately, which indicates a relatively cool and potentially wetter spring than normal.
“Yesterday’s storm was quite an interesting one,” MacDonald said Thursday. “The first day of spring we had this deep low (pressure system) cut right across the Island just north of Comox. Had some strong winds associated with that. We saw flurries, snow pellets, showers, wind gusts up to 100 km/h down the Strait of Georgia, and then even some water spouts out over the water…It was kind of a last taste of winter weather on the first day of spring.”
He said the short-range forecast is “quite nice.” There is a chance of flurries Thursday evening, but Friday is expected to mark the start of a dry stretch for the next three or four days, with temperatures gradually warming to highs of 11 and overnight lows of around three degrees.
The average maximum temperature this time of year is 9.9 Celsius while the average minimum is 2.4 C. The highest was 17.7 degrees in 1979 while the lowest dipped to -3.3 C in 1971.
The wettest March 21 on record came in 1956 when the Valley received 24.4 millimetres of rain.