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White Christmas a definite possibility

Kim Rodger of Island Mediquip clears the snow off the sidewalk outside the establishment on Cairnsmore Street  - Andrew Leong
Kim Rodger of Island Mediquip clears the snow off the sidewalk outside the establishment on Cairnsmore Street
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Dreaming of a White Christmas?

Well, it just might happen on Christmas morning in the valley this year. Then, again, maybe not.

The temperatures are so volatile there could be snow on the ground or more to come in the morning hours of Christmas Day depending where you live.

"We live in a climate where in a normal winter, we're right on the line between rain and snow,'' said Chris Carss, who operates the Chemainus Weather Station at his home on a volunteer basis for Environment Canada.

"It just takes a drop of two or three degrees to put us into the snow zone at any time.''

Carss has consulted with Environment Canada and The Weather Network information for the region to formulate what he's calling an experimental outlook for the valley on Christmas.

"I don't think it'll be as much of a White Christmas as a White Christmas morning,'' said Carss.

As the day progresses and the temperatures warm up starting Christmas afternoon, it's unlikely there will be any snow from then until the end of 2012.

But if it's having snow on the ground already and possibly getting a bit more on Christmas morning that you crave, then you might be in luck this time.

Using the Trans-Canada Highway as a dividing line, Carss pegs the chances of a White Christmas at 50 per cent to the west of it and 40 per cent to the east. The odds are higher at 60 per cent for Lake Cowichan and higher elevations such as Mount Tzouhalem, according to Carss.

"It'll be a morning thing if it happens at all,'' said Carss of any perceived snowfall for Christmas.

One factor is working against the chances of a White Christmas: the snowfall that arrived earlier this week.

"It probably lowers the probability it will happen again on Christmas,'' said Carss.

His observations also point to White Christmases occurring in the valley about once every five years.

On the other hand, we're also still in a period of a Pacific Decadal Oscillation, according to Carss, where winters are generally colder than normal which could point toward more snow.

"Also, we haven't had a White Christmas for a couple of years now,'' he said.

Shoreline communities such as Chemainus, Crofton, Maple Bay, Mill Bay and Cowichan Bay will all fall into the lower probability of snow range. Duncan, Glenora, Cowichan Station, the interior part of Cobble Hill and other regions away from the ocean are more likely to be in the higher probability range.

Lake Cowichan and the Malahat are always a level above that.

"I'm really sticking my neck out like I've never done and we'll see how it plays out,'' said Carss. "All I have is the knowledge of the local topography to base it on.''

Meanwhile, Mainroad South Island Contracting, which serves Duncan and the Malahat, reminds motorists to be prepared for winter driving conditions.

Roads can be treacherous and conditions unpredictable during the winter season.

Mainroad has a full complement of winter operators plus mechanical support staff working every shift 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ready to move on a moment's notice to keep the roadways clear and safe.

The use of either winter sand, salt brine or salt depends on the forecast and actual weather conditions.

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