VANCOUVER - Environment Canada confirms not a drop of rain fell over Vancouver and Victoria during July.

But while the lack of rain has been great for campers and beach-lovers, it also makes a changing weather pattern one of foreboding, with lightning on the way and a high-to-extreme fire danger rating in British Columbia's southern forests.

Vancouver recorded 411 hours of sunshine for the month — the first time the city has been precipitation-free since 1937 when tracking began on rainfall statistics.

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist said the previous sunniest July occurred in 1985 when Vancouver basked in 388 hours of sun and recorded only a trace of rain.

Several other B.C. cities set records for the driest July, with Vernon recording just 1.1 mm of rain to break a mark set in 2003, Revelstoke saw just 6.2 mm, eclipsing a 1922 record, and just .6 mm fell in Kamloops washing out the old record of 1.3 mm set in 1970.

Vancouver just squeaked into the record books, because rain began falling at the measuring station at Vancouver International Airport early on Aug. 1, barely an hour after the precipitation-free record was claimed.

Lundquist said its common for the subtropical high that usually hovers over California to move north at this time of year.

"That's why Vancouver and Victoria are the driest cities in Canada in the middle of summer. But this year it built back with extraordinary strength and has lasted so long."

He said the reason could be that the Pacific Ocean off B.C. is warmer than average for this year, creating a stronger high pressure ridge.

Lundquist said a new system is bringing unsettled weather to southern B.C. in time for the B.C. Day long weekend and he warns it will pack thunder and lightning, notorious for sparking forest fires.

"Even if we get lightning, as long as we get a lot of rain, it's not such a big issue, but in this case it doesn't look like that," he said. "It looks like most of the rain will stay south of the U.S. border and in Canada we'll just get more thunderstorms. Sometimes lightning comes on the edges of the clouds and it can be dry."

Open fire or campfire bans have recently been put in place for the Coastal, Kamloops, Southeast and Cariboo fire districts. Forest use hasn't yet been restricted in the province.

When the fire danger rating is high to extreme, forest fuels are very dry and the fire risk is serious.

B.C.'s Wildfire Management Branch said new fires may start easily and are a challenge to put out when the rating is high.

The province experienced another record dry spell in 2003, the same year that 2,400 wildfires roared through B.C., forcing the evacuation of 45,000 residents.

More than 300 homes were destroyed in separate forest fires that year and the government spent $700 million fighting the fires.

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