Huge chunks of Fraser River ice wash ashore in Agassiz, British Columbia

An earth science professor says large chunks of ice formed in the Fraser River and washed ashore near Agassiz, British Columbia, were likely caused by unusually cold weather in early December.

They were first spotted on the shores near the Agassiz-Rosedale Bridge on Wednesday afternoon, about an hour and a half drive east of Vancouver.

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

« Blocks of ice at eye level »

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

« They’re big, » he said. « It really shows that we 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 up the Fraser River during the cold snap.

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

Ward says this commonly happens in colder parts of the province in the spring when the river ice begins to break up. He said it’s unusual to happen in December.

SFU expert Brent Ward says it’s not common for large chunks of ice to form like this in the Fraser Valley in December. (Ken Leedham/CBC)

The narrow passage of the river near the Agassiz Bridge coupled with the low waterline are likely to cause these large chunks of floating ice to lock up along the banks, Ward said.

Ward says that sometimes when the ice forms a physical barrier, it can cause an ice jam. This results in water accumulating behind and can lead to rapid flooding.

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

« I don’t think we have to worry about flooding there, » Ward said.

Large chunks of snow lie on the bank of the Fraser River.
Chunks of ice along the Fraser River near Agassiz, British Columbia, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. (Ken Leedham/CBC)

Footage taken in the area on Friday afternoon shows the slabs have started to melt and have shrunk.

Ward says people should be careful if they choose to walk among the blocks and warns against walking far beyond the waterline.

Chunks of ice like these aren’t expected to return anytime soon, according to Alyssa Charbonneau, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

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

« At least for now, we’re not seeing a return to the cold that we saw in mid-December, » Charbonneau said.


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