An influx of warmer air is finally sending the Arctic conditions of the past few days packing. However, it will come with a price: A bout of heavy rains for the South Coast and a blast of heavy mountain snow, along with gusty winds, thanks to an incoming moisture-laden Pacific low-pressure system set to move in Saturday morning. Southwestern Vancouver Island could see 100+ mm of rain by the end of the first weekend of 2022, while some mountain passes could end up with more than 40 cm of snowfall. With winter storm and snowfall warnings in place, motorists planning on any mountain pass travel will need to be aware before heading out. What to expect, below.
WEEKEND: UNSETTLED, WINDY, BUT MILDER, WEATHER RETURNS
A strong storm system moving across the B.C. coast will bring heavy snow and rainfall this weekend. The good news is that the new low will usher in air from the Pacific, meaning the extended deep freeze on the coast will come to an end shortly.
The inbound system will bring a typical setup for B.C.: Rain, at-times heavy, for the coasts, with significant snow at higher elevations.
Starting Saturday morning, snow will reach coastal mountain passes, persisting over inland sections through the weekend with snowfall amounts of 30-45 cm. Regions near the coast including Squamish will likely see snow transitioning to rain mixed with wet snow on Sunday as freezing levels rise. Depending on the exact timing of the transition, snowfall amounts of 25-35 can be expected. Winter storm and snowfall warnings are in place.
The system then slides into the lower elevations of the South Coast Saturday afternoon, with precipitation starting as snow for the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island, but quickly changing to rain as the warm Pacific air pushes in and boosts temperatures. There will also be a risk of freezing rain from Abbotsford to Hope Sunday morning as the snow starts to transition over to rain.
Southwestern Vancouver Island will be the target of the heaviest rains, with 100+ mm expected. Metro Vancouver, meanwhile, could see 30-50 mm of rainfall, with 20-30 mm earmarked for the rest of the Lower Mainland.
As well, winds will be quite strong, as is the case for many B.C. systems. Winds will ramp up Saturday afternoon and will persist until Sunday night, due to a stalled occluded front. The Lower Mainland will see gusts of 50-80 km/h, while areas like Port Renfrew on southwestern Vancouver Island may see 90+ km/h gusts. Winds will continue to be gusty through the straits Sunday.
Freezing levels will then climb to 700 metres on Sunday, allowing rain to move into the mountain passes, so flooding will be a risk.
Temperatures will rise above the freezing mark Sunday for western coastal sections, with more milder Pacific air expected to spread east into the Interior by Monday, featuring daytime highs hovering around 0°C.
Beyond, an active pattern is expected for most of next week, with the potential for Arctic air to briefly return during the middle of next week. With it, there will be some potential for snow levels to drop back down to near sea level.
Check back for updates as we continue to monitor this system.