Summer heat expected to return for long weekend

Last weekend’s rain helped dampen local wildfire threat

After a chilly weekend in Greater Trail, the local forecaster says no worries, we’ll be back in our pools by Friday.

Ron Lakeman from the Castlegar Weather Services, said an upper low pressure system originating from the Gulf of Alaska tracked southward into the region, bringing a mass of thundershowers and unusually cold temperatures.

“It was a good 10 degrees lower than normal, which is usually around 28 or 29 degrees,” he explained. “The high temp over the weekend was 19 C because of the upper low, which we call cold lows because of the presence of the cool air mass.”

He said a big ridge of high pressure is building, causing a warming trend today until Friday and into the holiday weekend, raising temperatures back up into the mid or high 30s.

“There’s a bit of dispute as to how hot it’s going to get, there are some computer models suggesting it could get as high as 38 or 39 degrees and others 34 or 35,” Lakeman added. “Either way, it’ll be hot and dry.”

While the drop in mercury and rain put somewhat of a damper on recreational activities, the change was very welcome news for crews battling forest fires in the Southeast Fire Centre.

“The rain and lightning came in concentrated bans,” noted Fanny Bernard, fire information officer. “But it was much localized, so these gains are just temporary.”

Rain pelted some areas, measuring up to 30 millimetres (mm), while short distances away only a few millimetres fell.

“For example in two of our weather stations, the one at Potter Creek measured 20 mm of rain, then not far away as the crow flies, in the Darkwoods, only 2.2 mm fell.”

She said the first few weeks of August are the usual start of fire season, but this summer there’s already been three times the number of forest fires to date.

“We are heading to another warm dry trend, and when fire season typically starts,” explained Bernard. “So there will be no lifting of the campfire ban. This was just a good opportunity to get some water on fires in some of the more inaccessible areas, and cool them down for a few days.

“It gives crews the opportunity to call some fires out, hopefully get some rest, and get ready for the next period because we are expecting to still be busy.”

By Monday afternoon there were 34 active fires burning throughout the Southeast zone and 17 new small fires sparked since the lightning strikes over the weekend.

“There’s a couple in the Kootenay Boundary but these are small, spot fires that are not threatening communities or structures and haven’t grown,” clarified Bernard.

The 770-hectare Sitkum/Duhamel wildfire near Nelson is considered 90 per cent contained.

“Many areas of the fire are fully contained, mopped up, and are now in patrol stage,” said an update on bcwildfire.ca. “Some areas at the north end of the fire are inaccessible to crews.”

The weekend rain helped extinguish some of the hot spots. Restrictions on access to areas around the fire were also lifted Monday.

The fire, which was caused by lightning, flared to life on July 4 and resulted in an evacuation alert for about 350 homes, which was lifted after nine days.

With files from Nelson Star