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British Columbia

Huge Fraser River ice chunks wash up in Agassiz B.C.

A geosciences professor says large chunks of ice that formed in the Fraser River and washed ashore near Agassiz BC were likely caused by unusually cold weather in early December.

They were first sighted on the coast Wednesday afternoon near the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge, about an hour and 30 minutes drive east of Vancouver.

People have posed among the chunks of ice and posted about the phenomenon on social media.

“Person-high blocks of ice”

The chunks are the result of unusually cold temperatures in the province over the past week, according to SFU earth science professor Brent Ward.

“You’re big,” he said. “It really goes to show that we’ve had a pretty good cold snap to freeze. It’s almost person-high blocks of ice, so that’s pretty impressive.”

Ward said chunks of ice likely formed somewhere upstream in the Fraser River during the cold spell.

Then, with the warmer weather and rain the region experienced this week, the ice broke up into blocks and drifted downstream.

Ward says this often happens in colder parts of the province in the spring when the river ice begins to break up. He said it was unusual for it to occur in December.

Large chunks of ice jut out from the banks of the Fraser River, with a bridge in the background.
SFU expert Brent Ward says it’s not common for such large chunks of ice to form in the Fraser Valley in December. (Ken Leedham/CBC)

The narrow river passage near the Agassiz Bridge combined with the low waterline are likely the reasons these large floating chunks of ice got stuck on the banks, Ward said.

Ward says sometimes when ice forms a physical barrier, it can cause ice jam. As a result, water accumulates behind it and can lead to rapid flooding.

But in this case, the ice seems to be melting slowly.

“I don’t think we need to worry about flooding out there,” Ward said.

Large snow-covered chunks lie on the banks of the Fraser River.
Chunks of ice along the Fraser River near Agassiz BC on Friday December 30th 2022. (Ken Leedham/CBC)

Footage from the area Friday afternoon shows the plates have begun to melt and have shrunk in size.

Ward says people should be careful when walking between the blocks and warns against going well beyond the waterline.

Chunks of ice like this one are unlikely to return anytime soon, according to Alyssa Charbonneau, meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

She said January temperatures are expected to be warmer than normal.

“At least right now we’re not seeing a return to the cold we experienced in mid-December,” Charbonneau said.

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