Heat records were broken in multiple cities in the Okanagan and throughout B.C., Tuesday, June 2.
But in the small Okanagan-Similkameen village of Keremeos, no one will ever know if June 2, 2021, was in fact the hottest June 2 on record. Most locals likely don’t have a completely accurate forecast of what the weather will be like tomorrow.
This is because Keremeos is one of the few small Okanagan towns that doesn’t have its own Environment Canada weather station. The village hasn’t had its own official government weather station since August 2000.
Environment Canada currently gives Keremeos the forecast and current conditions for Penticton, despite the two towns having very different climates.
A handful of other smaller communities in the Okanagan-Similkameen like Hedley and Oliver also rely on weather stations of nearby communities for their forecasts.
However, for a town like Keremeos, where the climate is very unique from any nearby communities and the economy revolves almost entirely around farming, locals say having a reliable record and forecast of the weather is crucial.
Environment Canada warning preparedness meteorologist Armel Castellan said years ago there were many more weather stations in smaller communities throughout the country.
“On a side note, it’s something locals can always write a political letter to their MP at a federal level to say this is something that could be useful and here’s why,” Castellan said.
Because there’s no weather station, Keremeos locals have had to resort to their own devices for insight into what kind of weather they can expect tomorrow and in the coming weeks.
Various local growers co-ops have launched their own weather services but accuracy still remains an issue and the information is available to co-op members only, not the general public.
General manager of the Keremeos Grist Mill Chris Mathieson used newfound free time and a desire to stay connected to the community during the pandemic to set up a weather station as well as improved internet at the Grist Mill. The Grist Mill’s weather station is likely the most accurate, publicly available record of current conditions in Keremeos.
Current conditions are updated every few minutes online at oldgristmill.ca/conditions.
Although the Grist Mill’s weather station and other various weather services and apps are useful tools, they don’t provide the accuracy or historical context that would be hugely beneficial to the community, Mathieson said.
“This is farm country and people live and die by the weather,” he said.
Mathieson said most people in Keremeos have become accustomed to just not trusting the forecast. “I think people just know to not trust the weather forecast… they take it as a reasonable guess but there’s no way (the forecast) is hitting the bullseye here.”
Despite Keremeos’ unique weather patterns, Environment Canada currently lists the weather in Keremeos as being the same as in Penticton.
Steeped between drastic mountains, one hour east of Princeton and 45 minutes southwest of Penticton, the village is often more and hot and arid than Penticton in the summer and experiences more extreme winters with more snowfall. Winters are usually warmer than in Princeton due to the village having an elevation over 340 metres lower.
“We have this sort of unique bubble of dry air over this part of the valley, often we’ll see clouds coming (east) from Hedley towards the valley and disappear and reappear on the other side of the valley, we definitely have unusual local weather,” Mathieson said.
If Environment Canada was to bring a weather station back to Keremeos for the first time in over twenty years it would be hugely beneficial to the local agriculture community, potentially saving them countless lost crops, hours and dollars.
“Improved weather forecast models would be huge for us as an agriculture community,” Mathieson said.
“The sooner we know to anticipate things like hail or rain, it makes a huge difference for the growers in the area; people do a lot of work to prevent damage that otherwise happens when the weather is unpredictable.”