After a near record hot and dry May, water and fire restrictions are coming into effect.
The rain gauge at the Parksville city works yard registered an average of 47 mm of rain in May over the last 10 years. From April 29 to May 29 this year it measured rain on just three days, totalling 5.6 mm.
The nearest official Environment Canada gauge, in Comox, measured a bit more at 13.2 mm, but that still made it the fifth driest May on record. And meteorologist Matt MacDonald said 11 mm of that came in just a few hours, without which it would have been an all-time low.
“A lot of stations on the Island broke records in May,” he said, which is due to “a large blob of warm water off the coast.” An El Nino current has now measured half a degree above normal for more than five consecutive months, which he said is quite a big number.
“June is usually the cold-low month,” he said, when there can be quite a bit of precipitation, evening out the entire summer, but the long-range forecast continues to look hot and dry, though he admits it is hard to predict with any accuracy more than a few days out.
The dryness has been a regular trend locally with January at about half the average and March and April only getting a third. There was almost double the norm in February, but didn’t make up the shortfall.
The dryness is resulting in fire bans and water restrictions much earlier than normal.
The provincial government imposed category 2 open fire prohibitions across the Coastal Fire Centre this week, covering all crown land, provincial parks, and private land not covered by a municipality. And local municipalities are following their lead.
Because the bans can change and vary by jurisdiction, people should always check with their local municipality or fire department.
The ban applies to burning any material smaller than two metres in height and three metres in width, burning of stubble or grass, the use of fireworks, firecrackers, sky lanterns, burning barrels or burning cages of any size and the use of binary exploding targets (e.g., rifle target practice).
It dose not prohibit campfires smaller than a half-metre high by a half-metre wide, or cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes.
Fines for lighting a fire range from $345 to $100,000 and/or jail time.
Parksville and Qualicum Beach are already at level 3 water restrictions and the RDN is starting June 6.
Residents may water for a maximum of one hour every other day between the hours of
6-10 a.m. or 6-10 p.m.
Residents are not permitted to wash driveways or sidewalks, and must use a hose equipped with a shutoff device for vehicle and boat washing. Use of decorative fountains is only permitted if re-circulated water is used. Filling of residential swimming pools, wading pools, garden ponds and decorative fountains is not permitted.
“Reduced water use at this time will help ensure a stable water supply this summer,” says an RDN news release. “Drought conditions, predictions of a warmer and drier summer, a record low snow pack in local mountains have resulted in the need to increase water use restrictions.”
For more on watering, contact your municipality: Parksville (250-248-6144), RDN (250-390-6560) or Qualicum Beach (250-752-6921) or visit their websites).
To report a wildfire or for more provincial information call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on a cellphone and check www.bcwildfire.ca for the latest information.