A boy hiking in the rainforest

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Living Under a Cloud. . . in Tofino

By Joanna Streetly

The problem with living in the rainforest is . . . well . . . the rain. In Tofino, people obsess about the weather. We talk about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and buy special lamps that mimic the light of the sun. You overhear things like: "The sun came out for two days, two weeks ago" or "Well, it's supposed to be sunny on Thursday."

Tofino surfer in a storm

A Tofino surfer braves a windy, stormy day. Photo courtesy Wildside Grill.

And I'd hazard a guess that most, if not all, Tofino computers have the weather forecast as one of their favourites, (along with thesurf reports, of course).

The seven-day forecast is a website I visit a lot, each time with my heart in my mouth.

While the page loads, I wring my hands and pray that the news will be good – that I won't find myself looking at seven dark rain clouds. Sometimes, I'm scared to look.

Inevitably, there are at least five or six clouds.

Screenshot of a 7 day forescast in Tofino

An oh-too-typical weather forecast for Tofino

My heart sinks. That's when I remind myself that the weather forecasters have pessimistic tendencies. Maybe they're depressed. Or maybe they think it's better not to get our hopes up, in case things change for the worse. I scan for further information. Does it say heavy rain, rain, periods of rain, or showers? This is important information. If it says showers, I mentally change the cloud to a sun, because on the coast any break in the cloud can produce an unexpected sunny period.

If there really seems to be no hope, I check the 14-day forecast. The forecasters for this site must either

a) use a SAD lamp;
b) take anti-depressants;
c) have sufficient vitamin D;
d) be naturally happy, or
e) all of the above.

Screenshot of a 14 day forescast in Tofino

Oh my! There's actually a few suns in the forecast!

There are way more suns on this site. Once I even saw 14 suns here. I didn't believe it, but I whooped anyway.

If this forecast is gloomy, I go to the marine forecast and look for northwest or northeast winds – anything except that rain-laden southeasterly that prevails in winter. With a northwesterly, there's a chance of a break in the weather. With a northeasterly, it will be cold, but for once Tofino will be in the rain shadow: the clouds will scud over the mountains from the mainland, nice and high above our heads. Sometimes the clouds won't even make it over the mountains and while the rest of the province wades through drifts of snow, we'll frolic on the beach in full sunshine.


Screenshot of marine forecast in Tofino

Oh no... Gale Warning in Effect.

In the depths of winter, when the clouds have pressed down on us for days, I go outside at night to check for stars or the moon.  On those nights, the feeling of space above my head is almost as good at the feeling of sun on my face. Sounds crazy, but it's true.

So, I hear you ask, why do I live in such a rainy, rainy place?  The answer is simple. Beauty.

Even after twenty years, when the sun comes out, Clayoquot Sound just takes my breath away.

Sun on Long Beach

And finally, we welcome the sun. Photo courtesy Wildside Grill.

About the author
Joanna Streetly is an author, editor and illustrator based in Tofino and currently at work on her fourth book. Look for her previous books: Silent Inlet, Paddling Through Time, and Salt in our Blood in local bookstores, or on the internet. For now, you can find her at JoannaStreetly.com

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