Interesting 1935 Historic Flooding Photos in AVTimes

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There is a cool short article in the AV Times this morning.

It includes this iconic picture from the very useful AV Museum archives of flooding of the Somass River along the old River Road.

From the AV Museum entry: "circa 1935-01-00 DescriptionA northward view of the 1935 winter flooding on River Road shows two men wading across the road as the Somass River (at left) floods its banks. The building at left (with a sign on it) appears to be either sagging or toppling from the flood damage. A fishboat further up River Road is tied to a telephone pole. Hydro poles are at right of image, while telecommunications poles are at left."
From the AV Museum entry: “circa 1935-01-00
A northward view of the 1935 winter flooding on River Road shows two men wading across the road as the Somass River (at left) floods its banks. The building at left (with a sign on it) appears to be either sagging or toppling from the flood damage. A fishboat further up River Road is tied to a telephone pole. Hydro poles are at right of image, while telecommunications poles are at left.”

Unfortunately it’s not clear the exact date, but it does seem to be January 1935.  So I went looking at the data for January 1935 at the Beaver Creek station.

They had rainfall on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th of January of 45, 45 and 14.5, 3 and then 33mm  That’s a fair amount in quick succession but not huge.  I looked back at December and turns out there was 65mm on December 31st 1934 as well.  So it was a very wet New Year!

That would equal 202mm over 6 days.    Not quite the scale of the 246mm we received over 4 days, but certainly enough to cause flooding.

But look further in the month and a key difference might come through.

From the AV Museum description: "A man is seen in the distance walking away from the camera down River Road. A fence is at left, with snow piles at right. Telephone power lines are on either side of the road. These are the effects of the 1935 winter flooding of the Somass River."
From the AV Museum description: “A man is seen in the distance walking away from the camera down River Road. A fence is at left, with snow piles at right. Telephone power lines are on either side of the road. These are the effects of the 1935 winter flooding of the Somass River.”

from the AV Museum Description: "An intact house stands in a flooded yard due to the 1935 winter flooding of the Somass River. A shed is visible alongside the fence at left of image. Some snow is on the ground. A building (possibly) is faintly visible across the river in the background. Stamped on back: "[...] CLEGG’S STUDIO / PHOTOGRAPHER / PORT ALBERNI, B.C. / Local Views of the District. [...]""
from the AV Museum Description: “An intact house stands in a flooded yard due to the 1935 winter flooding of the Somass River. A shed is visible alongside the fence at left of image. Some snow is on the ground. A building (possibly) is faintly visible across the river in the background. Stamped on back: “[…] CLEGG’S STUDIO / PHOTOGRAPHER / PORT ALBERNI, B.C. / Local Views of the District. […]””
There’s quite a bit of snow on the ground!  And indeed, the record for later in January shows what looks to be a cold snap that started not long after the heavy New Year rains!

Peaking on January 20 with a low of -8º C and a snowfall of 88cm in one day (!) followed by 4 days of rain totalling over 50mm and by the end of the month reaching 12ºC and another big chunk of rain!

So it is truly difficult to say whether these pictures are all from the same day or not.  I have a feeling though that the picture at the top of the page is from the end of the month long after the huge dump of snow melted and at the end of a very wet month indeed, so unfortunately, the two events seem not really comparable from a weather perspective even if they are from a flooding perspective.

We should remember that before WWII and the Tsunami, the former “Alberni” townsite (now Lower Johnston area of Port Alberni) had much lower banks to the River.  River Road was built up at some point to basically be a dyke itself, and then of course “the dyke” at Kitsuksis Creek was built to save those lower reaches.  In fact, I am willing to bet much of the historic flooding of old Alberni came not only from the Somass, but from the triple threat of at-capacity Kitsuksis and Rogers creek converging with an angry and full Somass River.

The lesson here perhaps is that we have done well to build our cities to manage the floods that we have historically experienced.  The question now is, how will our city do with potentially larger floods of the present and future?

I will be back tomorrow with an outlook for the weekend.  It shouldn’t cause flooding like we saw last week, but it’s still a bunch.

One Reply to “Interesting 1935 Historic Flooding Photos in AVTimes”

  1. Before River Road was built up the road level was the same as the yards on the right hand side of the road(driving towards Sproat Lake) i.e. between Josephine & Golden and any winter high tide would basically flood the road with or without rain coming down. Also to note: After the building up of River Road and the construction of the Kitsuksis dyke it actually made things worse in the area from Beaver Creek Rd to Golden St. on account of this fact. The city was to cheap to put in a pump system for Lugrin Creek and during high tide the only way for the creek to drain into the Kitsuksis was automatically blocked by a one way gate which stopped the high tide from backing up into the Lugrin Creek but it meant the rain from the Heavens above had absolutely no where to go except into basements etc. until the tide went out allowing the gate to reopen and again let the Lugrin flow into the Kitsuksis Creek. Not one of the cities better engineering moves IMO. I know this because I grew up there during that time frame.

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