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Unusual winter storm brings heavy snow and record temperatures to North America, over 220 000 households without power


The season's first official winter storm has brought heavy snow and strong winds to North America, particularly affecting British Columbia, Canada as more than 220 000 households lost access to electricity on Monday, December 21, 2020. The storm was also responsible for the unusual record-breaking temperatures in Kelowna, as well as in Washington State, where above-average temperatures between 10 and 15 °C (50 and 59 °F) were recorded.

The storm brought harsh winds and heavy snow to southern British Columbia, resulting in widespread power outages. As of Tuesday, December 22, power was restored to about 220 000 homes, according to a statement from BC Hydro.

Around 19 600 households in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the southern Interior remain without electricity.

"BC Hydro has all available crews and contractor crews working around the clock to restore power; however, the damage is extensive," the utility company stated.

"[The] heavy, wet snow snowfall added weight to branches and trees, which caused them to break and come into contact with BC Hydro's electrical equipment."

Snowfall and high winds also prompted closures of highways and cancellation of ferry services.

At least 0.5 m (1.6 feet) of snow blanketed the Coquihalla, leading to dozens of crashes and vehicular accidents. Among the hardest-hit areas was Larson Hill, where up to 0.6 m (2 feet) of snow fell.

Aside from heavy snow and high winds, the storm system also brought unusually, record-breaking heat, not only in BC but also in Washington State in the U.S.

"I've been doing this work in B.C. for 30 years and this is a weird weather system," said Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist.

Lundquist remarked that most interior blizzards are driven by northern Arctic air, but an unusual westerly front generated the odd weather conditions.

"It was a record-breaking warm day yesterday, followed up by this ridiculous snow. Very unusual– never seen this."

Temperatures hit 10.5 °C (50.9 °F) in Kelowna, with some northern communities also reporting above-average temperatures over the weekend.

Further south in Washington State, Seattle recorded 15 °C (59 °F), breaking the record high of 13 °C (56 °F) set in 2005. Meanwhile, temperatures soared to 15.5 °C (60 °F) in Tacoma and 16.1 °C (61 °F) in Puyallup and Renton.

Snowfall, wind, and winter storm warnings remain in place for parts of BC as of Wednesday, December 23, 

Featured image credit: Colton Davies

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