A blog about life in the Bella Coola Valley and the Central Coast area of British Columbia for anyone interested in an incredible and rich part of BC's coast. I hope to provide my thoughts about things as simple as weather observations and seasonal issues, to comments about life and the natural history in the Bella Coola Valley, the Central Coast and the west Chilcotin area.
Note: All photos on this blog were taken by the author unless otherwise noted. While the photos and written material are all the property of the author and protected by Copyright, I'm not a professional photographer and you can use the photos if a link or attribution is provided back to my blog. If you have a need to use a particular photo and you want the high resolution file, leave a comment with your email (I won't publish it) and we can discuss what use you intend the photo for. Grizzly
A resident of the Bella Coola Valley and observer of the natural history, geography, resources, regional climate and cultural history of the Bella Coola Valley, Central Coast and the West Chilcotin area of BC.
Last week when it was mild and wet was a good time to catch the colour on the lichens. When it was wet and mild even in the winter, some of the lichens have a nice vibrant green, but as soon as the air dries out and it goes cold, it becomes hardly noticeable and rather dull looking.
Today was cool this morning in the Bella Coola Valley, but high clouds moved in at noon and it started to warm up a bit. Grizzly
The fine winter weather which started yesterday continued today in the Bella Coola Valley. With a low of -5 C and and high of -1 C and east winds in the 20-30 km/h range we got off easy compared to the weather station east of us along Highway 20 where the low was -36 C last night. That's the good thing about the Bella Coola Valley, if you wantt real winter it's only an hour away at the top of the hill in the Chilcotin. Grizzly
After a less then stellar week of weather in the Bella Coola Valley, just after dark last night the stars were out and the cold air moved back in. Today was a beautiful day in the valley, with temperatures near 0 C and a bit below zero tonight. There is the usual Arctic outflow wind blowing in some areas of the valley, but it's not cold enough yet to be too annoying. The next few days are supposed to be colder though.
Caught this photo of Mt. Nusatsum tonight just at 5 PM. All the valley mountains were bathed in a beautiful light right at the end of the day, highlighting the fresh snow plastered on all the vertical rock faces. Grizzly
It seems that after two months of mostly snow cover and ice and some dreary days, that your eye is drawn to greenery when you see it this time of year. That was the case for me with the plant in this photo, a Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia - a member of the orchid family), which we spotted while looking around in the woods under coniferous trees where the snow is mostly intercepted and with the thaw the remaining snow has dissappeared. This plant seems as vibrant and in good shape as they are in the summer time, quite amazing given the relatively thin leaves and the harsh cold drying winds before we even had snow in December.
A little bit of greenery is a good sign that we are onto the back half of the winter - at least down in the Bella Coola Valley. Grizzly
You have to give the guys credit who have been working since September 25, 2010 (The Great Flood of 2010) almost everyday except for two weeks off at Christmas. I heard they only shut down for one weather day when there was blowing, drifting snow and no visibility. These big trucks are hauling gravel being dug out of channels overfilled after the flood and depositing in nearby spoil sites where some gravel is needed. They chipped away when it was frozen, barely slowed down yesterday when the side creeks to the Bella Coola River water level popped up a wee bit and handled all the icy roads. I bet they are hoping to see the end soon.
By the photo you can see that the end of the day turned out not bad and we could see the mountain tops, back into fresh snow as the freezing level dropped near the end of the rainstorm of the last few days. All is good in the Bella Coola Valley weather. Grizzly
We are in the midst of a major January thaw in the Bella Coola Valley. Temperatures popped up to a high of 9 C in the Bella Coola Valley today and the freezing level appears to be somewhere above 1600 or 1700 m. We had some pretty good rain overnight and it did bring the Bella Coola River up significantly, but not anywhere near flood levels. This condition is very similar to the January 1968 flood which before the 2010 flood was the biggest flood in recent memories. The January 1968 flood had a significant snow pack in the valley, the freezing level went up very high and it started to rain heavy, which was a perfect formula for a bad flood. The satellite images don't seem to suggest this warm period will end badly for us this time. A serious dent has been put in the snow pack on the valley bottom - just about all the nasty ice on driveways and walks is gone, but the ground is frozen and lots of pooled water laying around. Grizzly
Nothing about the weather was inspiring today, a little bit of rain, low hanging clouds, no wind and temperatures in the 3 to 5 C range. Supposed to be another good rain system moving onto the coast but it seems to be hitting further north of the Bella Coola Valley, so we will likely see more of the same for a day or two. Grizzly
Today in the Bella Coola Valley was one of those very dreary January days when our climate is far more coastal than continental. Rain started late last evening and kept up on off through most of the day. Without wind during these kind of days, thin layers of cloud hang lazily along the valley mountain walls, occasionally moving away and giving a brief glimpse of what is going on up higher, only to be quickly replaced by another forming layer. With a high of 4 C, there isn't much else to say. Grizzly
With the Bella Coola Airport reaching a high of 6 C today, with high thin cloud and some blue sky it was a good day for going and doing some winter recreation in South Tweedsmuir Park. It was perfect conditions for Nordic skiing on the groomed trails, or snowboard/skiing at the small ski hill and snowmobiling in some of the back country area. It looks like everyone had good safe fun. There is just under 4 feet of snow on the snow depth gauge marker in Heckman Pass along Highway 20. Grizzly
It dawned a pretty decent day in the Bella Coola Valley today. Some blue sky and high clouds allowed us some nice views of the mountain tops with all their fresh snow. I was able to catch a shot of Thunder Mountain in the distance, when there was brief clearing. It has a lot of fresh snow.
Unfortunately about 4 PM the skies opened up and a cold steady rain started which at 3 C on the valley bottom surely must mean more snow falling mid way up the mountains. They are not forecasting a cold trend, but more of the same kind of weather as today. Grizzly
It's been 24 hours or more since it warmed up a bit and started to melt some of the ice. The freezing level hasn't gone up very high though as you can see fresh snow half way up the mountains whenever there is a slight clearing. Whenever there is a short mid winter thaw in the Bella Coola Valley, inevitably the Bella Coola River will colour up quickly from some of the natural clay banks on it and the tributary streams that thaw on the surface and start oozing fine clay. It will only last until things freeze again. We reached a high temperature of 8 C at the Bella Coola Airport today and only light rain showers occasionally. Grizzly
Most of the lower Bella Coola Valley received a pretty good soaking rain overnight. Further up valley in the Stuie area though it came down as 10-15 cm of wet snow before it turned to rain today. In the lower valley, the rain just pooled up everywhere on the frozen and snowy ground and just made wet pools of water on top of ice, making walking about even more treacherous. The rain didn't come with a warm enough temperature to do much melting. It would be nice to see a bit of warmer weather to clean up all the built up ice on the roads. Grizzly
We had about 5 cm of snow in some areas last night in the Bella Coola Valley through the night and into the mid morning when it snowed only half heatedly. By this evening it's just above 0 C and some rain is forecast. Upper Valley highways are still in relatively poor shape with lots of frozen broken up ice patches on the road that make it more like driving a gravel road. Crews still working on fixing the sediment buildup in some of the lower valley creeks are going steady trying to get the work done while the creeks are low and managing water is not such an issue. Grizzly
Yesterday was a nice transition from the wetter and dreary day we had on Sunday to today when there was some pretty good blue skies and morning temperature of -2 C. For awhile yesterday the freezing level must have been easily near the 1500 m or 5000' level, because there were small avalanches sliding off the rock faces on the sunny side of the valley quit high up. Today though the air was crisper and things have frozen up. Walking where roads were plowed or walk ways shoveled is treacherous after the freezing rain on Saturday night and rain Sunday. It's safer to wade through the snow than try to stand up on the edge of a road or a side road. Grizzly
The 2010 weather stats are in! Grizzly painstakingly checked the total monthly precipitation for the Bella Coola Airport and Vancouver International Airport. The results might surprise you. While I know a year does not make a trend, the results in 2010 are that Bella Coola is a drier place than Vancouver, but don`t tell too many people that - it`s a best kept secret! You can see the point I harped about from January to September last year about the `drought`we were having when we only got just over 300 mm of rain in 8 months - too bad that drought ended with 25% of our annual rainfall in one 4 day period in September - it really messed up an otherwise perfect year in the weather history of the Bella Coola Valley. Grizzly
The forecast freezing rain materialized late last evening. By morning we had a few millimetre coating of ice on anything that was bare. It was a very dreary day in the valley, the temperature sat right at 0 C all day, no wind, low clouds and light rain. Enough of that, time to move onto something else for weather! Grizzly
There are several areas in the Bella Coola Valley that tend to be a wee bit windier than the other areas. Places like the Snootli stretch, around Mt Nutsatsum and Firvale all deserve special mention for extra wind - both directions, westerly inflow winds in the summer (a good thing because it helps keep the mosquitoes at bay) and east wind or outflow in the winter - generally not fun.
We live in one of those windy areas, which is unfortunate in the winter - I keep scheming about getting a wind turbine to try to make the wind work for me. Last night we went through a snowstorm with east wind, cold temperatures and swirling, drifting snow. Tonight it is still at -5 C. It`s not a good thing when you have to bring the snow shovel into the house at night so you can clear the three foot wall of snow up against the door in the morning. We spent a few hours today shoveling away drifts against the house and little piles of snow cached in every out building we had. Fortunately we usually only get one storm a year with conditions like last night. Apparently the freezing rain is still forecast, I think this particular weather system of low pressure Pacific air over topping cold Arctic air is why we have meteorologists to try to sort out what is happening. Grizzly
It was a pretty windy and wild day in the Bella Coola Valley. Snow started through the night and by this morning, several inches were blowing and being driven by wind in all directions. Most of the day it kept up and dropped what seemed to be 10-15 cm, although hard to tell because of the wind. Meanwhile west of us 100 km at Bella Bella it warmed up and was freezing rain, then rain tonight while we are at -12 C. Environment Canada is forecasting well above freezing and rain for the Bella Coola Valley by the morning which should provide the usual interesting dynamics that the weather can provide in the valley. Grizzly
A few days ago the Bella Coola River was mostly filled with slow moving ice pans, but today we had a light snowstorm most of the day, so the ice pans quickly got bigger and seemed to mostly consist of aggregated clumps of snow. The snow in the lower valley added up two 2-3 cm, but up valley it was a little deeper, more like 8-10 cm. No planes again today in either Bella Coola or Anahim Lake and -10 C range in the valley tonight with the winds pretty light. Grizzly
While Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and parts of the interior all got the big dump of snow in the last 24 hours, the Bella Coola Valley was spared. The temperature stayed in the -7 to -8 C range and an Arctic outflow blew all night in the narrow windy areas of the valley with a fine wispy snow falling. The snow was hardly measurable, most blowing into a drift somewhere. By late afternoon a little bit of blue sky showed up. No planes made it from Vancouver today, Bella Coola had poor visibility, the alternate airport of Anahim Lake had snow and there were numerous delays and cancellations out of Vancouver International. Grizzly
After 3 days of well below 0 C weather the Bella Coola River starts to have a pretty steady passage of ice pans drifting lazily downstream, occasionally bumping and catching on the margins or swirling in back eddies and gradually adding a little bit to the solid ice. If the cold spell went on for a week or 10 days and went below -15 C the river will start to freeze over in some slower areas. Doesn't look like that is going to happen this time, snow is happening west of us on Vancouver Island today and by the looks of the greyness to the west we will get some soon. The temperature this morning was -8 C and this evening - 7C. Grizzly
Most of the Bella Coola Valley snow pack on the valley bottom is fairly light. In the Hagensborg area it is less the 10 cm, and as you go up valley to the Firvale and Stuie area it picks up a bit more maybe in the 10-20 cm range. At the top of The Hill at Heckman Pass, there is less than 3 feet or about 80-90 cm on the snow gauge. Generally not a significant snow pack for the Bella Coola Valley or the south Tweedsmuir Park area as we go into mid January.
Today continued cold at -6 C this morning and down to -7 C this evening. The winds backed off a bit this afternoon making it a pretty good day. Grizzly
It was back in late November that I was lamenting the coming days at our location where we see the "End of Sun" and the darkest part of winter because of the high mountains to the south of us. Happily with the clear skies today and being past the shortest days of winter, we are starting to catch a few rays of sun on the edge of our property. It was a quick six weeks, and there were probably only two to three weeks that we had clear enough days that we would have seen the sun if the mountains weren't in the way.
Last night in the Bella Coola Valley the temperature dropped to the -4 C range and stayed in that -3 or -4 C area with a moderate Arctic outflow wind. Cathedral Point in Burke Channel was gusting outflow to the usual 80 + km/h. Grizzly
I was out of town a few days this week, but it looks like the week was pretty mixed in the Bella Coola Valley. Some rain early in the week on Tuesday and Wednesday and then some wet snow. Tonight it's back to below freezing at -1 or -2 C. There was a pretty good dump of snow on the hill though, looks like another 25 or 30 cm of snow on the gauge at Heckman Pass so that it shows 2' 10" tonight. Environment Canada is calling for some chilly temperatures for the next few days as well. Grizzly
Throughout the Bella Coola Valley and coastal valleys in general you will find streams that look like this one. They are extremely important for the survival of coho salmon. The coho salmon spawn in the Bella Coola River, tributaries, and small unnamed little nondescript streams wherever there is low gradient and some gravel. Once the eggs hatch and the fry emerge, they need to spend a a year or more rearing in small streams like this one. The best of these streams are in deciduous and coniferous forests, with lots of stable logs in the streams and undercut banks. All ideal conditions for the fry to rear, feeding on insects and out of sight of the predators.
This particular stream on our property is valuable because it only rarely freezes over and if it freezes over the ice never gets very thick. The reason is that the source of the water is all groundwater which comes out at the base of the mountains, collects and gradually forms little defined streams working their way towards the Bella Coola River. Groundwater temperatures stay more stable and thus provide valuable habitat, that is laden with good hiding spots, clean water and food. All good things for a coho salmon fry that will grow to or 5-10 cm long before it leaves the creek and will come back in two years at 8-12 lbs. A good return on investment. Grizzly
During the Great Flood of 2010 in the Bella Coola River, Atnarko River and the tributary streams, huge amounts of logs other wise known as Large Woody Debris (LWD) were added to the river system from adjacent banks and the old LWD moved around. During the peak of the flood while it was daylight and we could watch the river, the amount and size of trees floating pass was quite astounding. While the water was high a lot of the trees moved right through the river system and ended up in the ocean at North Bentinck Arm. The inlet was seriously plugged with debris for a number of days while it dissipated. It even affected getting the ferry in to move people because of the hazard caused to navigation.
Trees that end up in the ocean spend the rest of the their lives becoming worn and smoothed as beach drift wood. Some of the better logs are captured by log salvage and sold for use as lumber, but travel anywhere on our coast on virtually any beach you will see large amounts of logs at the high tide line. If you have ever wondered where all this wood comes from, it's not all escaped from logging operations, but a huge amount originates every year from our large coastal rivers and during the big coastal rains which cause natural landslides, many of which go straight into the ocean on the steep coastal fjords.
I have heard from some people that some of the big log jams in the Bella Coola River that have been largely in place for 30 years or more (that's why LWD is valuable for fish habitat, it helps stabilize stream channels) have all been moved and the path is pretty clear. The next few 'moderate' floods will be pretty interesting as a lot of the wood will move around in system to find its new stable location. Grizzly
In a stretch of the Bella Coola River near where we live, we noticed a cluster of large new boulders in the river last week. Closer examination revealed that the very tops of these rocks had a bit of old moss on them, so prior to the Great Flood of 2010, these rocks were not very obvious, just the tops were exposed. It's a new feature now, with almost a metre of river gravel swept downstream to be deposited somewhere else. There are lots of other places in the river system where dramatic changes took place during the flood and we will now have a different river system to get used to. Grizzly
The last 10 days of December and the first days of January were a real treat in the Bella Coola Valley.
While it is not uncommon to get some really nice days in the last two weeks of December and early January this holiday season was better than average in my opinion because the temperature was so stable and the air so quiet (ie no Arctic outflow winds!). I took the photo above on Jan 2 up the valley in Tweedsmuir Park and even though those nice days are gone and we will experience another bout of Pacific Storms crossing the Coast Mountains it is a nice reminder of the weather we had. Grizzly
Today in the Bella Coola Valley was the day for being 'tween' weather systems. The morning dawned with -10 C and clear blue skies, but by mid afternoon the blue was gone and mostly grey was moving in from the west. By nightfall the tops of the mountains had disappeared into the low cloud and small fine snow was starting. Tomorrow is supposed to bring some more snow or something. Can't be any complaining though, as I've gone on at length in the last two weeks, the Christmas and New Year holiday weather was nothing short of spectacular and for that we are really grateful. Grizzly
For us in the Bella Coola Valley, 2011 started out just perfect. With a morning temperature of -9 C and warming a little this evening at - 4 C it was near perfect for getting out and walking about or some people made the trip up to the cross country ski trails at East Branch. Whatever your choice the blue sky, an occasional eagle perched along the river, very still and quiet made it a good start to 2011. Grizzly