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'It looks like Christmas': Northeastern B.C. gets August snow dump

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-08-19 Dominika Lirette

Residents in northeastern B.C. woke up to winter in August on the weekend.

"It looks like February. The trees are completely covered," said Melody Magaton, owner of the Buffalo Inn in Pink Mountain, located 190 kilometres north of Fort St. John.

"It looks like Christmas, all that's missing is the Christmas lights and the trees."

While it's not entirely uncommon for towns in higher elevations to receive snow in August, getting a big dump of it is very unusual, said CBC meteorologist Brett Soderholm.

a park bench covered in snow: The view from Melody Magaton's window Monday morning, at the Buffalo Inn along the Alaska Highway in Pink Mountain, 190 kilometres north of Fort St. John, B.C. © Photo by Melody Magaton The view from Melody Magaton's window Monday morning, at the Buffalo Inn along the Alaska Highway in Pink Mountain, 190 kilometres north of Fort St. John, B.C.

The community of Pink Mountain, on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, is about 1,000 metres above sea level.

While there is no official figure on how much snow fell in the Pink Mountain area on Sunday and Monday, Magaton estimates there's over half a metre on the ground. Records on historical August snowfall in the remote area are also not available.

Magaton said she is used to seeing snow every month of the year, but not this much in the summer.

"I was out in two feet of snow yesterday, trying to cut all my lilies," she said. "The garden is just done."

She knew there was a snowfall warning from Environment Canada, but she was still shocked when she woke up Sunday morning. 

"I thought I was in a time travel. I went to sleep it was fall, got up and it was winter," added Magaton.

As of Monday morning it was still snowing, she said.

Less snow in Fort Nelson

"The biggest issue is elevation," said Soderholm. "As soon as you reached about 1,000 metres above sea level in elevation, that's where precipitation started falling primarily as snow. As a result, it looked very much like winter for many people at or above this elevation."

 Fort Nelson, which is more than 200 kilometres north of Pink Mountain, sits at a lower elevation of about 410 metres above sea level. It received a mix of snow and rain. 

Local John Roper, a municipal councillor for the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, said the weather is varied even within the community of Fort Nelson. 

"In parts of Fort Nelson it's snowing where in other parts it's just raining," said Roper.

His parents' house got quite a bit of snow.

"It was all over their vehicle and the trees were covered and the roof of the house was covered as well," he said. "It's been about over a decade since I've seen this much snow."

However, the snow is not likely to last long as temperatures are expected to rise. Environment Canada is predicting a temperature of 17 C in Fort Nelson Tuesday morning.

Uncommon 

"In general, this would not be a very common thing to have in the middle of August," said Soderholm.

The highest recorded snowfall Fort Nelson has received in August was five centimetres of snow on August 27, 1991. 

According to Environment Canada, between 1981 and 2010, the average snowfall for August was 0.6 centimetres in the northern B.C. community. 

This weekend's snowfall was caused by a storm over the northern prairies that brought "very cold" arctic air in contact with moisture from Pacific, explained Soderholm. 

"When you combine those two things that's  a very classic setup to get lots of big fluffy snowflakes," he said.

"What was unusual is just how much cold air was able to come down into the Peace region."

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