While Vancouver Island has been no stranger to rain the past month, Port Renfrew has seen more than most.
By the end of November, 1,160 millimetres of rain had fallen – the most anywhere on the Island. Victoria has never seen that much rainfall in a whole year, according to charts compiled by weatherstats.ca.
Port Renfrew Fire Chief William Toumlin says while the community remained unscathed compared to communities on the mainland, some roads are seeing erosion.
Two families were evacuated along Island Road when their homes flooded.
“The ground saturation is creating a lot of instability in many places where it hadn’t been a problem traditionally,” Toumlin said.
Provincial highways contractor Emcon Services is set to repair Island Road but hasn’t given a timeline yet.
There’s also been flooding along the Pacific Marine Route near Deering Flats with traffic being diverted, and the road is down to one lane along Parkinson Road due to part of the road eroding down the hillside.
Toumlin added the Gordon and San Juan rivers are packed to the brim, and with high tides expected for December and January, the only place for the water to go is over the banks.
But Toumlin says the community is prepared.
On Nov. 30, the fire department handed out 300 sandbags to residents and had backup storage of 300 more plastic-wrapped sandbags, which they can hand out if needed.
“Long-term residents, people who have been here their whole lives, are used to the weather, and it’s part of life,” he said. “We accept it, but it’s been a big cross to bear for a lot of folks here for last month because the sheer volume is at record volumes.”
On Nov. 13 and 14, the weekend before the historic Nov. 15 deluge, Port Renfrew saw more than 280 millimetres of rainfall in two days. The heaviest single-day rainfall was on Nov. 27. While yet another atmospheric river passed overhead, Port Renfrew saw 193 millimetres of rain. Totalled up, that’s 477.8 millimetres of rain. Port Renfrew saw more rain in its three wettest days than fell at the Victoria International Airport for the whole of November (316.4 millimetres).
November 2021 stands out historically as well. Compared to Environment Canada’s climate averages for 1981 to 2010, Port Renfrew saw more than double the amount of rain this past month than it usually does.
While it may seem like these are historical conditions, Armel Castellan, an emergency preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, says these extreme conditions are consistent with climate change projections.
“It’s not to say that it’s always going to be this extreme all the time, and we will see lulls, of course, but the frequency, the amplitude of these events, and their longevity individually, will continue to increase with the coming years and decades,” he said.
Provincial officials said that around a dozen atmospheric rivers had hit the province since mid-September.