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HomeBusinessDecembers to Remember: big snowstorms at Christmastime in Vancouver

Decembers to Remember: big snowstorms at Christmastime in Vancouver

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 Bob Mackin

Is this another December to Remember?

It could already be one to forget, for those that have suffered in one way or another. 

The Dec. 19-20, 2022 snowstorm that enveloped the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island is best-known (so far) for mammoth delays at Vancouver International Airport that stranded holiday travellers. Some for as much as 12 hours in planes stuck on the tarmac. 

While visions of a white Christmas dance in many heads, meteorologist David Jones, the Whistler Powder Picker on YouTube, says a lump of coal awaits on Christmas weekend. Temperatures are expected to return to near-normal, bringing the risk of local flooding.

Dec. 22, 2022 at Granville Island in Vancouver (Mackin)

“Heavy snow will get coated in super heavy ice while the freezing rain persists,” said Jones, the former coastal warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada’s Pacific storm prediction centre. “Then the warmup will add additional weight.” 

2008

Vancouver was just over a year away from welcoming the world to the 2010 Winter Olympics when Mother Nature embarrassed B.C. and forced officials to buy more snowplows. 

Between Dec. 14, 2008 and Jan. 8, 2009, 102 centimetres of snow fell, according to Jones’s analysis for Environment Canada.

“To further characterize this period: At least 20 cm snow on the ground for nine straight days and three snowfalls of at least 15 cm in one week (Dec. 21-26),” Jones wrote.

1996 

Meteorologist David Jones

Environment Canada called it the “Storm of the Century.” 

Victoria received 95 centimetres between Dec. 27-29. Vancouver had 80.7 cm for the entire month. 

Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh asked for and got help from the Canadian Forces. Troops in Victoria and Chilliwack sprang into action for the first time since the 1948 Fraser River floods.

A shed collapsed on 20 boats at Captain’s Cove Marina. The stakes were higher in downtown Vancouver, where workers with brooms scrambled to the roof of B.C. Place Stadium to clear off the snow that piled up on the teflon-coated, inflated dome. 

They saved the roof and the 3 Tenors’ New Year’s Eve concert went ahead as scheduled. Their heroics were rewarded with souvenir golf shirts. 

1990

Vancouver’s 25 cm of snow on Dec. 30, 1990 didn’t break the 1968 record of 31.2 cm. But it was notable for another reason. Blowing snow wreaked havoc with SkyTrain’s safety doors and forced the first major shutdown of the 1985-launched system.

Burnaby Mountain was under 45 cm of snow and bus service was cancelled to a variety of higher elevation routes in Burnaby and the North Shore. 

1968

The Dec. 30-31 snowstorm dumped 27.94 cm at Vancouver International Airport, beating the Dec. 19, 1948 record of 23.6 cm.  

The Province reported that it ruined New Year’s Eve parties at downtown hotels. The Bayshore Inn desperately hired a snowplow. The Chinese Golf Association was expecting 600 guests, but only 360 showed up to ring in 1969. 

CKWX radio’s Jim Morrison decided to play party matchmaker for people living near each other. One caller said he had Hong Kong flu and wanted to meet other flu victims, “rather than infect the healthy.” 

1965

Many Vancouverites felt they were living a repeat of the previous December. This time, there were “only” 10 consecutive days of snow on the ground, greater than or equal to 20 cm with at least one day greater than or equal to 30 cm. 

Mayor Bill Rathie told the Province on Dec. 29, 1965 that an angry woman called his home number at 1 a.m. to complain that a snowplow was keeping her awake. Rathie had little problem maneuvering city streets in his four-wheel drive jeep with front tire chains. City manager Ran Martin, however, suffered a flat tire. 

1964

A record December snowfall of 89.4 cm thanks to a New Year’s Eve dump of 50.8 cm. The North Shore was especially hard it. West Vancouver council held an emergency meeting. 

The stretch began Dec. 17 and it remains the snowiest in one category, with 23 consecutive days of greater than or equal to 20 cm of snow on the ground, with at least one day greater than or equal to 30 cm. 

1948

B.C. Electric Railway interurban trams were stuck in the snow due to the Dec. 28-29 storm. The entire City of Vancouver was without power and light service at 8:25 a.m. on Dec. 29 when the transmission line from Stave Falls buckled under snow. Service was restored to Dunbar, Kerrisdale and Fairview at 5 p.m., three hours later to parts of Shaughnessy. Some 9.3 inches fell. 

Coincidentally, there was also a turkey shortage that Christmas, driven by rising costs. 

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