Rain and weather memories

It is difficult to write about Ocean Falls and not to say a few words about the rain because it was a part of one's life during periods of the year. As mentioned earlier, Ocean Falls is exposed to one of the highest yearly rainfalls in North America. Matching rainfalls can only be found at a few spots in Alaska and on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The heavy, steady and daily rain usually starts towards the end of September or the beginning of October. The heavy rain is caused by the warm, very moist airflow coming from the Pacific Ocean to the west. The mountains are lower at the edge of the coast line and they rise gently towards Ocean Falls where the mountain Caro Marion is about 4,000 feet high. I do not know what the yearly record rainfall is for Ocean Falls. However, there was an official weather station located at Ocean Falls. The engineering department was in charge of collecting the daily data and transmitting this data to Vancouver. I do remember, that one of the years I was there, we had close to 200 inches of rain. In metric terms, that is equivalent to 5 meters of rain. Most of the rain falls between the beginning of October and Christmas and is intermittent during January and February. Not only is Ocean Falls exposed to endless days of rain, but the rainfall can be extremely heavy. There have been rainfalls measuring 8 inches in 8 hours, i.e. 1 inch/hour. Quite often the rain is accompanied by a westerly storm blowing perhaps 30 to 50 knot. In such conditions the rain comes at you horizontally and not vertical. 

During the rainy season you really did not have to look out of your windows to see if it was raining before leaving for work. You knew it was raining. The decision you had to make was; are you going to leave for work in just your rubber-overs with an umbrella, or are you going to jump into full rain gear and rubber boots. This decision did require a quick look outside before you opened the door. Should you make the wrong decision and not dress properly, you would be totally soaked before completing  your 5 to 10 minutes walk to the mill. Heavens only know, how many times we sat down at our office desks with the rain water running down our backs. It could take several hours to dry up properly. Rubber-overs by the way, are large rubber shoes with zippers into which you can step with your normal shoes. In Ocean Falls they were an absolute necessity if you were an office worker. 

During heavy rainfalls, it was quite common to see boats having gone under during the night. This, on your way to work in the morning. Fortunately, it was mainly the smaller boats which suffered such a fate. Often it was caused by a corner of the boat cover to drop inside the boat and and a perfect water funnel would be created. We had a small plywood speedboat for a while with two 40 hp outboard engines. It had a small cabin but was open in the back. More than once did I sit in a howling rain storm at 2 or 3 in the morning bailing water in nearly total darkness. We did manage to drown the boat eventually and our two engine boat became a one engine boat because of saltwater damage to one of the engines. 

The months of January and February would bring colder weather. This would often result in heavy wet snowfalls but could at other times be nice dry snow. Ocean Falls could often be bone chilling cold for periods of several weeks. 

During the winter, a high pressure area builds-up over Alaska and Yukon. This high pressure area results in the winds becoming easterly outflow winds rather than the normal warmer westerly winds. The winds coming down the mountain side of  the Mount Baldy could be dreadfully cold. The wind would funnel in between the mill paper machine building and the Hudson's Bay store on the other side of the mill. The only normal access to the mill was via a long wooden bridge supported by pilings. It certainly woke you up in the morning having to cross this bridge.

This bridge brings up another story. One of the engineers at the mill had been a Lieutenant Commander in the British Navy. It was reported that he had  skippered a British frigate during the Second World War. He had for this reason been on the bridge of  many ships. He told us, that the front surface of the bridge on a war ship was designed and built to throw the air over and above the heads of the personnel on the bridge. This would protect them from the ever present rain and cold air on the open bridge. The front of the bridge railing was built so that the rail was leaning forward by perhaps 30 degrees. In addition, a second plate was added to the sloping front supported by ribs. This design would act as a wind tunnel and at the speed of the ship, the wind would be forced high up above the bridge. The engineer talked the plant engineer and mill manager into copying this design onto the bridge running from the Town site to the mill. By using timbers and plywood a war ship bridge design was added to the mill bridge. This installation worked perfectly. It was a real pleasant change from the previous ice cold walks. This surely was what one would call "applied engineering". 

The cold spells were often the times where people could not get in and out of town except by ship. The amphibian and float planes could not fly due to icing in the air or icing on the hull or pontoons when landing. It was actually quite annoying since this could go on for a week or two. It would stop all business travelling and mail and newspapers would not arrive daily.