"Pineapple Express" dampens Vancouver Olympic buzz

Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:19pm EST
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By Steve Keating

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The Vancouver Winter Games countdown shifts from months to days on Tuesday just as a "Pineapple Express" weather front has slammed into the Pacific Northwest dampening Olympic fever.

As athletes and construction workers were pushing full speed ahead with their final preparations, VANOC officials faced their worst nightmare on Monday as unseasonably high temperatures and rain lashed the Vancouver area.

Weather fronts that bring warm, wet conditions from the Pacific ocean during the winter are often described as Pineapple Expresses by local forecasters.

With just one month to go until the February 12th opening ceremonies, the spring like conditions, which are expected to remain in the area through the weekend, could pose a threat to several Olympic venues.

Cypress Mountain, host for freestyle skiing and snowboard competitions, was closed on Monday due to heavy rain and snow making halted as temperatures in Vancouver climbed to a balmy 11 degrees Celsius (52 Fahrenheit).

Work crews at the popular resort, located just 12 kilometers outside of Vancouver, have been busy stockpiling snow at higher elevations and said snow making would resume as soon as temperatures dropped.

Whistler, about 125 km from Vancouver and venue for all alpine skiing, cross-country and sliding events, was also facing a soggy week with rain and temperatures well above freezing set to remain in place until Sunday.

"We're putting everything we've learned and planned for regarding weather contingency into practice at the outdoor venues in order to be ready for the Games," said Tim Gayda, VANOC's vice president of sport in a statement.   Continued...