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A person walks a dog in a residential neighbourhood on a mountain overlooking flooded farmland in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckDARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

British Columbia on Wednesday broke several heat records, with the warm temperatures contributing to localized flooding in the province’s Central and South Coast caused by a series of rainstorms.

The balmy temperatures came as the province navigated its way through the third in a series of atmospheric rivers, with local leaders expressing cautious optimism that extensive repair and preparation efforts, including around-the-clock sandbagging and the shoring up of dikes, would effectively protect already flood-ravaged areas from more worst-case scenarios.

Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said Wednesday that the third atmospheric river, which arrived in B.C. on Tuesday, had already dumped around 200 millimetres of precipitation on the outside coast of Vancouver Island, and more than 100 millimetres in the eastern Fraser Valley and near Squamish and Howe Sound. Another pulse of rain was expected Wednesday evening.

But adding to the precipitation was record-breaking heat, which melted snow that then flowed into the floodwaters, Mr. Castellan said.

“An atmospheric river not only brings moisture, but it brings heat – and it’s bringing it well above 3,000 metres, well above mountain top height,” he told a news conference. “So, very, very warm up high, a lot of snowmelt, in addition to what we’re seeing in terms of precipitation.”

The hottest temperatures Wednesday were in B.C.’s South Okanagan region. In Penticton, the temperature reached 22.1 early Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary data provided by Environment Canada meteorologist Bobby Sekhon. That shatters Penticton’s previous daily record of 11.2, set in 2012, and is one of the warmest December days ever recorded in Canada, though the department has yet to confirm the temperatures officially.

Summerland, meanwhile, reached 20.4 by noon on Wednesday, up from its previous daily record of 18.5 set in 2007, Mr. Sekhon said.

On Tuesday, Lytton – the B.C. village that broke a national heat record by reaching 49.6 on June 29 before burning to the ground the day after – set a preliminary new daily record of 15.3. The previous record of 12.2 was set in 1933.

This follows record precipitation in many parts of the province, particularly in the eastern Fraser Valley. Abbotsford, which continues to experience localized flooding, received about one-third of its typical annual rainfall in the month of November, with accumulations of more than 540 millimetres – 99 millimetres more than its previous record. Abbotsford and Hope also broke 24-hour records for precipitation during the initial atmospheric river in mid-November, with 100 and 174 millimetres respectively, Mr. Castellan said.

He added that Environment Canada is also tracking Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver and Abbotsford for having broken seasonal precipitation records for September, October and November combined.

“We have gone from some extremes to other extremes and, unfortunately, this is consistent with what climate change has been projecting for all parts of Canada, including the mid-latitudes here in B.C.,” Mr. Castellan said.

“It’s not to say that it’s always going to be this extreme all the time – we will see lulls, of course – but the frequency, the amplitude of these events, and their longevity, individually, will continue to increase with the coming years and decades.”

Meanwhile, Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said regional water modelling projections continue to show a stabilization of overall water levels. Overnight patrols continue along the Sumas Dike, and the evacuated Huntingdon Village area, to monitor any changes in conditions. Across the border, officials in Whatcom County in Washington state reported that the Nooksack River had crested and is not expected to overflow its banks, while officials in Sumas, Wash., said floodwaters in the city were receding.

Mr. Braun cautioned that rainwater and snowmelt continue to make their way down from Baker, Vedder and Sumas mountains, causing water levels to rise unexpectedly in some areas of the community, and that some homes that had previously been assessed for flood-related damage may have to be reassessed following new localized flooding. However, the city may soon be able to lift some evacuation orders if the weather continues to co-operate, he said.

“We are also continuing to focus energy on our return to home plans for all of our displaced residents while keeping our eyes firmly on weather projections,” Mr. Braun told a news conference. “I look forward to a time when we no longer have the term ‘atmospheric river’ included with our weather projections.”

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