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Strong jet stream sweeps smoke out of B.C. southwest

Erin Wenckstern

Sunday, August 13, 2017, 10:18 AM - Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia continues to choke parts of the province, but a strong jet stream continues to sweep plumes out, resulting in air quality statements being dropped for much of Vancouver Island and from the central coast downward. 

New evacuation went into effect on Saturday in the southern interior as threat of fires, and resulting smoke, continued to spread. The Nelway area was placed under an evacuation order after the McCormick Creek wildfire moved east over the Salmo River. The Shambhala Music Festival, located within the fires eastward trajectory, was placed on evacuation alert.

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While the highly anticipated rainfall will not do much to douse any existing wildfires, its should facilitate cooler temperatures and less stifling conditions for firefighting efforts in the province's interior.


Rain has already begun to fall at Vancouver International Airport and into the Lower Mainland. Once the atmosphere gets saturated, some showers may reach the ground on Sunday and end Kelowna's dry spell.

Victoria has reporter rain for the first time in 55 days, breaking its longest ever no-rain streak.

Although radar is indicating light rain in parts of the Interior, the region is so dry that the precipitation isn't reaching the ground.

As expected, the coastal mountains will rob the majority of moisture from the system, leaving only scattered showers east of the chain for Cariboo, the Okanagan and Kootenays. While the showers are welcomed, it is not anticipated to supply a widespread soaking for the fire-striken regions. 

In addition with this dynamic system, the threat for thunderstorms increases, potentially sparking new weather-generated wildfires. Upper troughs may help trigger some non-severe storms around the Prince George Area on Sunday.


An approaching upper level trough has shoved the ridge that has plagued the province since early August east of the Rockies over the weekend. The trough increased southwesterly flow in the upper levels of the atmosphere, clearing the smoke out of the southcoast to the northeast. 

While the winds have helped clear smoke out from the south coast, they pose a large threat to the current wild fires burning, particularly in the Williams Lake region. An increase in wind helps fan and spread active fires, which has the BC Wildfire Service concerned.

Multiple evacuation orders are in effect, including one for the northwest side of Quesnel Lake, one near the Maeford Lake area, another for a area southwest of Quesnel and a large portion southwest of Prince George.

Meanwhile, all Crown Land in the Cariboo region has been closed for public access. The ban covers about 103,000 square kilometres of land. It is expected to remain in effect until Sept. 5, but could be lifted weather depending.

This restriction means those in the area or who wish to enter will not be able to without prior written authorization of an official designated for the purposes of the Wildfire Act, according to the service.

The Cariboo Fire Centre stretches from Loon Lake (near Clinton) in the south to the Cottonwood River (near Quesnel) in the north, and from Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in the west to Wells Gray Provincial Park in the east.


"It looks like the dominate trough position will be over western North America for late August, so a cooler and potentially wetter ending to the month," says The Weather Network senior meteorologist Dr. Doug Gillham.


2017 has been B.C's second-worst wildfire season in terms of land burned. More than 130 "wildfires of note" (those which are highly visible or pose a threat to public safety) are currently active, as extreme heat and dry conditions continue across the province.

Check back for updates as we continue to monitor the forecast.

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