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Fog foils flights, and slows ferries across swaths of Cowichan

Duncan Garage Showroom patrons make their way across the railroad tracks on a foggy Monday night. While morning fog isn’t unusual for the Duncan area this time of year, the dense fog blanketing the valley all day Monday was, observers say. - Andrew Leong
Duncan Garage Showroom patrons make their way across the railroad tracks on a foggy Monday night. While morning fog isn’t unusual for the Duncan area this time of year, the dense fog blanketing the valley all day Monday was, observers say.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

This week's fog bank grounded air flights in and out of Cowichan, slowed some ferries, and iced roads while the pea soup is forecast to lift with Wednesday's rain, officials said.

"Usually when we get rain, it tends to burn off thick fog," Chris Carss, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada, said of the cotton-like clouds that covered Cowichan Sunday and Monday.

"We've been in and out of thick fog, and that hasn't been restricted to any time of the day.

"It's an inversion with a pool of cold air trapped near ground level, with warm air on top."

The inversion meant subversion for Harbour Air's seaplane flights servicing Maple Bay and other island docks.

"We've been grounded for three days," executive vice-president Randy Wright said Tuesday.

"We grounded 50 flights coast-wide."

The white bog also smothered flights at Victoria and Vancouver airports, he noted.

"We've been doing this for 30 years, and safety is number one. Mother Nature can throw you a curve ball."

She tossed delayed at BC Ferries' crafts serving some Gulf islands and the mainland.

"We took some traffic away from the airports," said Ferries' spokeswoman Deborah Marshall.

Monday runs between Chemainus,Thetis and Kuper islands; the Coastal Celebration serving Tswassen and Schwartz Bay; and the Queen of Cowichan between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay saw delays of about 10 minutes.

But that time was eventually recovered, she explained.

"Our bridge teams are highly aware of other vessels in the area.

"With extremely thick fog, ferries may run slower. We have radar and that certainly helps.

It also when drivers reduce speed, noted Leon Bohmer of highways contractor Mainroad South Island.

While police reported no fog-related wrecks by press time, the  misty chowder caused some slick, black ice on stretches of Cowichan roads.

Carss said when mercury moves just below freezing at night "we get what's called freezing fog, and black ice is one thing you get with it."

Mainroad fought it by reapplying its salt solution.

"We use a liquid-brine, anti-icing material, and the fog dissipates that," Bohmer explained of higher moisture-dilution rates, forcing reapplication in some areas.

Still, while Duncan was blanketed, Lake Cowichan and the Malahat were mostly clear, he reported.

Dense fog hits the valley about once year, Bohmer added, while Carss called the condition more rare.

"The last time I remember fog conditions like this was December 1999, and it went on for a week," said Carss.

"While Mount Prevost was sunny and mild, we were damp and cold at ground level. These fog bowls come with high- pressure weather."

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