Regional highlights for 2005
Another January Blizzard in Newfoundland
On January 17, people in western Newfoundland dug themselves out from another huge dump of snow. Strong easterlies gusting to 100 km/h led to frequent whiteouts. Following the storm, the weather turned cold with extreme wind chills. The blizzard saw schools and businesses close and travel disrupted. Plows were taken off side roads.
Missing the Snow in PEI
Charlottetown had only 12.2 cm of snow in February - close to its all-time low record total of 11.2 cm in February 1998. What was eclipsed was a record low for total precipitation; 22.9 mm compared to the previous record of 26.2 mm in 1981. Overall, it was a mild and quiet month because of storm inactivity. But the lack of snowfall had people talking. With snowfall totals 100 cm less than in February 2004 and only six days in the month with a measurable amount of snow, the people of Charlottetown were surprised at the snow "no show" in what is usually one of Canada's snowiest cities.
Winter Not Over Yet
On March 9, New Brunswickers awoke to a battering of rain, wind and snow - a harsh reminder that there was still more winter to come. Weather ran the gamut from 50 cm of snow in St. Leonard to 28 mm of rain in Saint John, with powerful wind gusts up to 111 km/h in Moncton. Nearly 25,000 hydro customers across the province lost power during the storm. A week later, city crews in northwestern New Brunswick were still working around the clock to clear streets and deal with snow dumps exceeding 15 m high. For some with short weather memories, it was said to be the worst late-winter storm ever.
In Nova Scotia, the problem was flooding and strong winds. Rising water and ice trapped people and forced the closure of several bridges. The highest wind recorded was 140 km/h at McNabs Island in Halifax Harbour. One resident from Whitney Pier noticed his barn was missing; the next day it was found several metres down the street. Environment Canada's Atlantic Storm Prediction Centre in Dartmouth had to evacuate their offices when the building began swaying. Forecasters were actually getting nauseous.
Ice-Crashing Storm Surge
On March 16, a storm surge sent 10-m waves, rocks and tonnes of ice crashing along Newfoundland's east coast on the Avalon and Baie Verte peninsulas, causing millions of dollars in damage. At Flatrock, strong winds felled 12-m cranes used for lifting crab out of boats. Thin ice was driven ashore with a tremendous force, ripping apart sheds, breakwaters and boats and wrecking fishing gear. Some tossed boulders were the size of a small car and were moved more than 10 m inland.
A Sheila's Brush Storm
A huge nor'easter struck the southern half of Newfoundland after St. Patrick's Day at the end of March. Heavy rain on the Burin Peninsula caused road washouts and flooded basements. St. Lawrence received a huge amount of rain - 100 to 150 mm in a 36-hour period. Its mayor called it the worst storm in a decade. Many residential units had their basements flooded and a lot of road shoulders were washed away. One unofficial report cited 234 mm of rain over one and a half days. In the north, around St. Anthony, blowing and drifting snow reduced visibility to zero at times.
Stormy Beginning to the Atlantic Seal Hunt
On March 29, the annual seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence opened in treacherous weather, turbulent seas and renewed tensions between sealers and international protesters. The foul weather sent one 18-metre fishing boat from Newfoundland to the bottom. It also kept observers grounded in Charlottetown. The second day brought gale-force winds of 90 km/h, freezing rain and fog. Thick fog forced down four helicopters in a field near Grand Tracadie. In another incident, five sealers had to jump into waters with 5-m high waves and ice floes initiating a dramatic rescue off the coast of PEI.
The Newfoundland portion of the seal hunt was to begin on April 12, but it was twice delayed by bad weather, rough seas and shifting ice floes. The hunt eventually got underway and ended by April 20. The harvest quota of 320,000 seals was reached despite horrible weather.
Runway Reconstruction and Fog at Halifax Airport
Reports of heavy fog and airport runway upgrades at Halifax International Airport forced the cancellation of dozens of flights on the Canada Day weekend. The situation was repeated a week later, making two weekends when hundreds of travelers were left stranded at the airport or forced to find alternative lodgings.
September Flooding in Stephenville
Hundreds of people in western Newfoundland fled their homes when rain-filled rivers flooded downtown Stephenville on September 27. Over 150 mm of rain, mostly from the remains of Hurricane Rita, fell on the region forcing the breaching of two town rivers. The Mayor declared a state of emergency when water washed out roads and swamped several bridges. Emergency measures officials conducted a door-to-door evacuation. Some people had to be rescued by a front-end loader and a zodiac. About 80 homes flooded when water rose up to first floor windows. It was several weeks before some residents could return home.
Moncton's May and October Monsoons
This year was the rainiest October ever seen in Moncton. In fact, it was the rainiest month ever with 277.8 mm falling on the city. On October 8, Moncton had its rainiest October day on record after receiving 120.6 mm of rain. The previous mark of 103.1 mm was set on October 21, 1968. Along with eclipsing October rainfall record, Moncton also broke its all-time rainfall mark for May with 232.3 mm, surpassing the old record set in May 1990. It marks the first time that two new monthly rainfall marks were set in the same year.
Sunny March in Montreal
Montreal P. E. Trudeau International Airport set a new record for sunshine totals with 211.2 hours while the normal is 158.9 hours. The old record was 205.4 hours set in 1988.
Spring Flooding and Evacuations
On April 28, as much as 100 mm of rain fell across Quebec and New Brunswick at a time when snow was melting feverishly thus creating prime flood conditions. Rivers across Quebec overflowed causing landslides and washed-out roads. In the village of Petite-Rivière-St-François, north of Quebec City, rising waters forced more than two dozen families out of their homes - some for more than a week. Damages were so extensive to 30 homes, that officials condemned them.
Summer Deluges in Montreal
Montreal had both a sunny and wet summer. Sunshine totals exceeded 850 hours during June, July and August inclusive - some 12% more than normal. Total rainfall, however, was close to 390 mm or 145% of normal. And when it rained, it poured! On June 14, a downpour from the remains of tropical depression Arlene dropped a rainfall total of 40 mm - 30 mm of it in one hour. The sudden thunderstorm at morning rush hour flooded parts of Highway 40's interchanges leaving some motorists stranded for more than an hour. Cars rapidly filled with raw sewage. The rains also triggered several landslides.
Over the next three days more than 88 mm of rain fell in Montreal, adding to more water problems for motorists and residents. Three weeks later, on July 5, another brief but soaking storm inundated Montreal with 64 mm of rain, wreaking havoc on sections of the city's road network for the third time in less than a month. This time the storm disrupted afternoon rush-hour traffic, leaving some cars wading in water up to their roof lines. The Decarie Expressway was closed in both directions.
Vicious Autumn Winds
On September 29, almost a quarter of a million Quebecers in the southern and eastern parts of the province were left without power after 90 km/h winds and heavy rain struck. The hardest hit region was the Richelieu Valley, south of Montreal. Strong winds also caused blackouts in the Laurentians north of Montreal, and in Quebec's Eastern Townships. New maximum hourly winds speed records were set for both Dorval and Gaspe.
That Was Some January Thaw!
Across southern and eastern Ontario, January 17 felt more like April or May when temperatures rose briefly to an incredible 18°C. In Toronto and Niagara the temperatures shattered previous high temperature records for January. In fact, at Toronto - in the midst of the usual dead of winter - the city experienced its warmest day ever in any January or February, with records dating back to 1840. The last time the city came close was 16.7°C on January 25, 1950. People savoured the moment, unzipped their coats, and left hats and mitts at home. The crazy temperatures were enough to close some Ottawa area ski resorts and further damage snowmobile trails.
Winter's Worst Days
A vigorous Alberta clipper which swept through southern Ontario on January 22 brought treacherous blizzards, blinding whiteouts and dangerously low wind chills. The highest snowfall totals were recorded near the west end of Lake Ontario where easterly winds blew embedded lake-effect squalls inland. Blowing snow created large drifts and reduced visibility to near zero. The OPP reported more than 800 accidents, mostly in the Toronto and Niagara region, and stretches of Highway 401 were closed with whiteouts and black ice.
A couple of days later, cold arctic air engulfed Ontario with temperatures dipping to below -25°C in the southern reaches of the province. It was the beginning of the coldest time of the winter. In Kitchener-Waterloo temperatures dipped to -31.1°C, one of the coldest days in its history. In Chatham, a homeless man became hypothermic after he was trapped in a clothing donation box that he had climbed into for warmth. It fell over, trapping him inside. The next morning someone heard his cry for help. In another incident, a woman died from hypothermia in a creek in Tilbury. In Ottawa, the bitter cold wreaked havoc on water pipes and roadways. The -40 wind chill also crowded the homeless into shelters in the major cities.
April Snowstorms Make For One Long Winter
A belated April Fool's Day storm lashed southern Ontario with upwards of 35 cm of heavy wet snow and 50 mm of rain, along with winds from the northeast gusting between 50 and 80 km/h. The blast of winter-like weather threw southern Ontario into traffic chaos. The mixed precipitation event led to 500 accidents. Further, the storm knocked down power lines in several areas of southern Ontario, leaving thousands of people in the dark. The highest amounts of precipitation occurred over the Niagara Peninsula. In Kingston and Ottawa, many residents had to deal with waterlogged basements following record rains and a generous snow melt.
On April 23-24, spring weather came to a brutish halt as wet snow and high winds pummelled southwestern Ontario. Residents in London, Windsor, Wiarton and other locations in western Ontario got a real white wake-up call, reminding them that despite spring being a month old, winter weather was still around. The freakish weekend snow storm in the London region knocked out power and caused havoc on the roads. Heavy snow weighed down tree limbs and cut off electricity to 19,000 homes, many from northwest of London to Grand Bend.
Windsor - Ontario's New Snowbelt
Windsor is often referred to as "Canada's banana belt" and one of the least snowy cities in Eastern Canada. Not this year! From November 2004 through April 2005, Windsor got an incredible 225.5 cm of record-breaking snow - about 100 cm more than a normal winter's accumulation. The previous record was 199.6 cm in 1969-70. By the middle of winter, Windsor and its residents already knew they were into something exceptional. Hardware stores had sold twice as much ice salt and shovels as normal. By the end of March, the city had inched closer to its all-time winter snow record but with the season all but over, the record most citizens were now cheering for seemed out of reach. However, winter refused to die. A freak spring snowstorm lashed Windsor on April 23-24, awarding the city its snowiest winter on record. As a bonus, it could now boast the snowiest April ever with a total of 31. 6 cm.
On June 9, a major thunderstorm followed by a series of smaller systems dumped between 100 and 125 mm of rain on Barrie, bringing waist-deep flash flooding. Hail the size of pennies rained down on the city centre. The deluge came just days after Barrie marked the 20th anniversary of a devastating tornado that killed eight people in the city in 1985. In the latest storm, rising water submerged cars up to their windows and felled trees by the dozens. Pedestrians ran wildly for shelter, fighting against the wind just to stay upright. Police closed roads because of the flooding and some country roads were washed out.
UV Index Levels in Toronto Reach Extreme Category
On June 1, the UV (ultraviolet) Index in Toronto was observed at 10.56, rounded to 11, and listed as "extreme" by the 5-category UV scale. This was the first time the new extreme category had ever been attained in Canada. The high values were due in part to the very low stratospheric ozone levels over Ontario depleted by about 4% below pre-1980 values as a result of the emission of ozone-depleting substances into the atmosphere.
Rains from Dennis the Menace
On July 16, heavy rains sparked by the remnants of Hurricane Dennis caused local flooding in the Kitchener area, when 112.5 mm of rain fell during the day.
Rough Start to 2005 in Manitoba
A massive blizzard that struck southern Manitoba on the last days of 2004 continued to rage into the beginning of 2005. The storm dropped 45 cm of snow in some areas raising concern over the potential for spring flooding. Highways between Portage la Prairie and the Saskatchewan border were closed due to poor driving conditions. The heavy snowfall stranded cars, frustrated bus riders and forced hundreds of Manitoba hockey fans attending the World Junior Hockey finals in Grand Forks, North Dakota to bed down in a football stadium. Sections of at least 10 highways in the province were closed. And as the snowfall diminished, 65 km/h winds whipped up the white stuff, reducing visibility in the outlying areas. Cleaning up the massive snowfall took nearly a week and two lives were lost due to the storm.
The Big Deep Freeze
During the first week of January, a frigid blast of Arctic air rolled across Western Canada. The deep freeze engulfed the West for several days, creating traffic delays and dangerous work conditions outdoors. Several flights were delayed when extra time was needed to warm up the aircraft. Both SaskEnergy and SaskPower set consumption records. Manitoba Hydro also reached a record peak demand for electricity when the meter hit 4,261 megawatts. And the night of January 16-17 was the coldest time of the winter when the temperature dipped to -40°C and below. The wind chill made it feel 10 degrees colder. Hundreds of Winnipeggers had to deal with frozen water pipes, broken sprinkler pipes and blocked chimneys, and hospital staff reported a higher-than-usual number of frostbite cases over the course of the week.
Ice Hockey Record
On February 19, about 40 bone-weary men in Edmonton reached their goal of playing the longest ice hockey game ever - more than 10 days - skating two days beyond the record held by residents of Moosomin, Saskatchewan, and qualifying them for an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. Temperatures during the game ranged from 12°C to -15°C. The game was played on a homemade outdoor rink. The score was about 1,700 to 1,600.
A Blowdown Wind in Manitoba
Storm clouds filled the skies over Manitoba late on July 30. Heralded by considerable lightning, a thunderstorm dumped up to 60 mm of rain in two hours on Winnipeg's south side. Golf-ball size hail littered the ground in Selkirk. In the Otterburne area, the storm packed strong winds of about 150 km/h felling hundreds of trees. On one farm, ten of the biggest elm trees on the property snapped and fell on top of greenhouses. Further, straight-line winds picked up huge irrigation wheels each weighing 15 tonnes and threw them across the field. In Sandilands, the storm ripped out as many as 800 pine trees in town. The ground looked like a war zone. Motorists had to drive down the ditch to avoid the trees and branches lying on the road.
On August 23, more than 120 mm of rain fell in Maidstone, Saskatchewan. The town's Mayor declared a state of emergency when the sewage station began to backup. The flash downpour flooded scores of basements, swamped cropland and forced Maidstone's 1,200 residents to cope without water services for more than 24 hours. Fields became saturated and crops were knocked over in water and mud, dashing hopes of a bumper harvest. To the north, heavy rains swelled lakes and river basins. The flow of the Churchill River was the highest ever seen since records were first collected in late 1920s.
Winter's First Blast
On the weekend following Labour Day, heavy rains and snows (45 cm) lashed southern Alberta, knocking out power and snapping off trees in the Crowsnest Pass. The power authority said the storm's heavy wet snow felled at least 50 utility poles. The inclement weather also wreaked havoc on the roads and fuelled fears of a repeat of June's devastating floods. Alberta Environment issued high stream flow advisories for more than 20 waterways across the region. In Calgary, high waters flooded basements and stalled traffic. Farmers winced at the thought of postponing a promising harvest. Among the most affected communities were Cardston, Raymond and Pincher Creek in southern Alberta, and Fernie and Sparwood in southeastern British Columbia.
On September 10, the storm moved into Saskatchewan leaving a trail of broken branches, toppled telephone poles and sodden fields. In Saskatoon, over 50 mm of rain fell in 24 hours. In LeRoy, about 120 km east of Saskatoon, more than 175 mm of rain transformed the normally placid creek into a wide river that washed out footbridges on a golf course and swept away crops that were swathed but not yet picked up.
Winter Was One Week Long in Victoria and Vancouver
The first week of January brought the only winter weather of the season to the south coast of British Columbia. Victoria got more than 46 cm of snow -- about a year's worth (48 cm) --including 23.4 cm on January 7. At times, motorists crept along slippery roads at half-speed. Many residents stayed home. Salt, sand and sleds flew off the shelves, and video stores were emptied. The provincial insurance corporation reported a 30% increase in the accident rate. On the mainland, police were busy with ditched vehicles, fender-benders and car thefts. For local taxis and tow trucking firms, it was a windfall, doubling their weekly business. By late January 7, Vancouver had recorded 12.2 cm of snow over a two-day period.
Sunniest February on Record in Vancouver! Or Was It?
Victoria had their sunniest February on record in 2005 (193.6 hours), breaking the previous record of 151.5 hours set in 1996. The normal sunshine total is 88.9 hours. While less cloud means cooler nights, days were near perfect for tennis, golfers and hikers in the city. Tourism Victoria's annual flower count was underway much to the annoyance of the rest of Canada. For those who care, final counts were more than 3.7 billion blooms, well over the 1.8 billion tallied up in 2004.
Vancouver boasted a record high bright sunshine total for February - more than 151 hours - but the exact figure will never be known because someone made off with Environment Canada's sunshine recorder. The 12-cm-diameter glass globe is valued at more than $2,000 and resembles a crystal ball. Psychics and fortune tellers are among the prime suspects!
On March 20, a mudslide tore up sections of the Sea-to-Sky Highway north from Vancouver to Whistler, forcing resort-bound, springbreak travellers to turn around. Many of the stalled and now frustrated travellers were bound for the Whistler ski resort to take advantage of a fresh dump of snow (55 cm) on the first weekend of the spring break. Equipment used in the highway's $600-million upgrade project for the 2010 Olympics was used to help clear mud and debris almost a metre deep from the road. The south coast was also hit by high winds, causing blackouts in some Vancouver neighbourhoods.
A Gloomy June
Sun-loving Vancouver just moped through one of the gloomiest Junes in the record books - a meagre 148.5 hours shone on the city compared to the normal of 229 hours. The lingering cloud cover was the result of a persistent low-pressure system over the Queen Charlotte Islands. With temperatures peaking around 20°C on most days, crowds on the beaches were sparse. As a consequence of the dearth of sunny days, some sun-tanning salons reported a brisk business and the production of honey dropped to record low amounts. Inland, June was one of the wettest Junes in history in the Okanagan. In Kamloops, 86.2 mm of rain fell compared to a normal of 35.2 mm. One storm after another kept sunshine down but also kept forest fires in check.
Storm-Stayed in Tuk!
During the second week of January, the weather turned ugly at Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, a hamlet of about 1,000 people. During the storm, temperatures dipped below -30°C and winds topped 117 km/h. Some homes lost power for 5 days, and water and sewage services were unavailable. Five houses froze solid, likely with burst pipes and ruined pumps. One family without power was forced to use a camp stove in order to melt snow into water for flushing toilets.
Thinning Ozone Holes
Frigid January temperatures high in the atmosphere above the Arctic started to thin the protective ozone layer even more, raising alarm about increased harmful UV rays and the adverse impact on human health in the warm season. Temperatures dipped to -89°C in the stratosphere at northern Canadian weather stations - the lowest temperatures in about half a century. Extreme cold permits chemical reactions to take place between the polar stratospheric clouds and chlorofluorocarbons, releasing ozone-destroying chlorine. Ozone over the Arctic was about 10% thinner this January than last.
Budget Delayed by Weather
Nunavut politicians took a snow day on February 24, as a raging blizzard forced the government to cancel the tabling of its 2005-06 budget in the legislature in Iqaluit. Said Nunavut's finance minister: "I don't think in the history of Canada there's ever been a budget cancelled because of the weather." With winds gusting to 91 km/h in fresh snow, it was a complete whiteout. Even Iqaluit's taxis stopped running.
Rescues More Common in the North
On March 1, abandoning their large canoe in open water when the motor's gas line froze during a blizzard, four aboriginal walrus hunters scrambled onto a chunk of passing ice. Without warning, a huge wave swept an elderly hunter into the ocean. Just as unexpectedly, another monster wave literally picked him up and threw him back onto the ice. A helicopter rescue brought the hunters safely home to Cape Dorset, Nunavut.
Securing Sovereignty in the North
After waiting nearly a week for a spell of fierce Arctic weather to subside on April 6, a small contingent of Canadian soldiers driving military snowmobiles fanned out across the Canadian Arctic archipelago. The patrol was supposed to begin at the end of March but high winds and low visibility prevented the patrol from reaching Isachsen until four days later. Once the maneuvers got underway, bad weather continued to dog the Canadian Ranger patrol, delaying a simulated plane crash intended to train the reservists as first responders. It was a total whiteout, grounding all aircraft for a couple of days.
Record Snowy Year in Parts of the Nunavut
In Rankin Inlet, Nunavut nearly 300 cm of snow fell from September to May inclusive; that is about 250% more than normal. In April alone, 94.6 cm of snow fell during the month. Huge daily snowfalls are rare in that part of the Arctic. On average, only one snowfall event of 12 cm or more occurs every two years at Rankin Inlet. In October 2004, there were two such events. In total, October had 73.4 cm of snow, compared to a normal of 23.1 cm. Both April and October established new monthly high snowfall records. Other stations also reported heavy snowfalls. For example, Arviat had a winter total to the middle of May of 274 cm compared to a normal of 104 cm. The 26.4 cm of snowfall on April 28 was the heaviest one-day snowfall in Rankin Inlet. Snow loads caused lake and river overflows and contributed to several fatalities in the Northwest Territories this spring.
Dramatic Rescue on Mount Logan
At the end of May, bad weather trapped three British Columbia climbers on the Yukon's Mount Logan - Canada's highest peak. The weather had been treacherous with very high winds, large snowfalls and cold temperatures. Unfortunately, although authorities were alerted to the peril, foul weather hampered rescue helicopters from reaching the climbers. The trio were stuck without shelter at 5,500 metres in a raging blizzard for two days. The men were afflicted with hypothermia, severe frostbite and altitude sickness. One of the rescued climbers had to have all of his fingers amputated.
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