Regional highlights for 2000

Table of Content

National

Canadians might not believe this, but it was another warm year in Canada, although not as warm as it was the last two years - 1998 was the warmest ever and 1999 the third warmest. With just days left in the year, 2000 is likely to be the sixth-warmest year on record since 1948 (when Environment Canada began keeping nation-wide weather records). The last colder-than-normal year nationally was 1992. With another balmy fall, Canada has had a stretch of 14 consecutive warmer-than-normal seasons. A warmer Canada is in step with the rest of the world. The year 2000 is the 22nd consecutive year with above-normal global surface temperatures. It was similar to last year's temperature which was the 5th warmest year in the past 140 years. The ten warmest years have all occurred since 1983, with eight of these since 1990. As the new century begins, global temperatures were 0.6°C above those at the start of the 20th century.

A combination of low water levels, below-average snowfall, an early thaw and a string of 12 consecutive seasons of milder-than-normal temperatures had fire managers anticipating an active fire season in Spring 2000. Many provincial authorities mobilized firefighters, machinery and water bombers on standby nearly two months earlier than usual. Tinderbox conditions also forced an early ban on campfires. But instead, the year will be remembered for what it wasn't. Steady spring rains, cool temperatures and minimal lightning combined to produce quietest forest fire season on record. That makes two tame years in a row. In 1999, only 50% of the total area normally consumed was set ablaze by wildfires. On the other hand, in 2000 the United States had their worst wildfire season in 50 years. In late July, there were more Canadians extinguishing fires in Montana than in Canada.

Atlantic Provinces

A St. Patrick's Day storm dumped 20 to 32 cm of snow across the Maritimes. The day before, Annapolis Valley residents were wearing T-shirts and shorts under sunny skies and 16°C temperatures. In Nova Scotia, the spring storm brought its usual mixture of rain, freezing rain and ice pellets. Across Prince Edward Island, blowing snow caused whiteout conditions forcing school boards to cancel classes, and giving students an early start to their March break. The next day a storm commonly known as Sheila's Brush combed Newfoundland with a vengeance, dumping a deluge of snow and freezing rain, shutting down highways and causing flooding and wind damage in several towns.

In April, about a half-dozen icebergs menaced three oil-rigs on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. It was the first time in 10 years that icebergs-some of them the size of small apartment buildings-threatened drilling operations. Water cannons mounted on supply ships were used successfully to blast the icebergs, even though those shooting the icebergs couldn't see them because of the thick fog.

A late-October storm battered Prince Edward Island, coastal New Brunswick and Newfoundland. It did millions of dollars damage to fishing equipment and harbour facilities. Winds were clocked at more than 100 km/h and rainfall amounts were between 30 and 60 mm.

Under perfect weather for five days in July, more than one million sun-drenched people showed up to view the Tall Ships as they sat berthed in Halifax Harbour. Thanks to a brisk wind from the north, the large square-riggers could fly their full complement of canvas. The event was blessed with sunshine and hot weather after a foggy start to the week.

Thousands of harp seal pups off the north shore of Prince Edward Island were orphaned by a freak combination of thin ice and a late-winter storm. Many of the young seals, some only a few days old, became separated from their mothers while still nursing. A combination of a mild winter that produced little ice and a violent storm that ripped apart the seal whelping ground made the traditional seal hunt nearly impossible.

In the wake of warm, southerly breezes that pushed temperatures in southern New Brunswick to record heights for mid-December in southern New Brunswick, a weather bomb swept through the Maritimes creating extensive power outages and property damages. The stiffest winds occurred in Moncton and Saint John at 111 km/h. The wild winds forced vehicles off highways into ditches, cancelled ferry crossings and downed trees across the region. The greatest impact was the loss of power to 30,000 customers in New Brunswick - one of the worst power knockouts in the last 20 years - even worse than the infamous ice storm of 1998. Weak-hurricane force winds on the Confederation Bridge connecting PEI with New Brunswick forced officials to restrict travel.

Quebec

Montrealers awoke to a belated April Fool's joke on April 9, but few were laughing about the record April snowfall of 37 cm. On April 1, Montreal's snow contracts with two dozen outside firms ended for the season. Police, though, had good news for motorists parked illegally, they would not issue tickets that week.

On Valentine's Day, two teenagers from L'Ange-Gardien, were walking along the Lemoine River unaware of a dangerous overhang of snow, 35 metres above them. When an avalanche buried them under 60 cm of snow, a neighbour's Labrador retriever, Stub, dug out one mitt and whined frantically to attract the rescuers' attention. It was too late for the boy, the girl survived with some hypothermia and minor injuries.

On October 29, an early snowstorm hit the Gaspé area dumping more than 40 cm of snow, a Quebec record for October. Police reported 130 snow-related accidents across the province, including at least three causing fatalities.

On December 18, an intense winter storm packing hurricane-force winds tracked across the St. Lawrence River and the Saguenay and Lac St. Jean regions of Quebec. Winds knocked out power to more than 180,000 homes, ripped away roofs and siding and made driving conditions atrocious in blowing snow.

Ontario

There were fewer tornadoes in Ontario this year than normal. The tornado with the greatest impact was on July 17 in Guelph. It tore up trees, flattened fences and decks and ripped off sections of roofs from more than 125 houses and garages. Property losses were estimated at $2 million. Winds were estimated at 200 km/h.

On May 12, a tornado-like two-minute downburst tore into Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The storm brought hail, 140 km/h winds and 40 to 50 mm of rain. Majestic 200-year old trees lay everywhere. Winds destroyed the roof and four of five chimneys in an 1832 historic inn. Total repair cost of the inn was at $1.5 million. Live hydro wires and poles were downed, blocking roads all over town. The storm disrupted a performance at the Shaw Festival, and knocked out power to the floral clock in Queenston.

Prairies

In early November, a couple of Colorado Low storms dropped record rains between 100 and 250 mm in southern Manitoba. The Red River had never been higher in November. Ditches brimmed over with water, portions of farmer's fields were soaked and some residents waded through water to get to their homes. Five municipalities in southeastern Manitoba declared local states of emergency. With a sudden freeze, officials expressed concern about spring flooding.

On November 2, residents of southeastern Saskatchewan dug out from more than 65 cm of heavy wet snow. The terrific weight of snow snapped more than 50 power poles, downing lines and leaving thousands of residents without power. In North Dakota, a busload of tourists from Alberta rolled on a slushy highway during the storm. About 20 of the passengers were injured, 10 of them seriously.

British Columbia

Owing to the absence of any appreciable cold temperatures below -30°C in British Columbia, the largest infestation of Mountain pine beetles in history is ravaging a forest area twice the size of Vancouver Island in west-central BC. The insects will continue to spread to other forests unless a cold winter kills them.

Long-time residents of Prince George called it the most severe wind storm they had ever seen. The storm on July 31 uprooted trees and downed power lines. Wind gusts were clocked at 95 km/h. Broken tops of trees swirled around in the sky; they headed west, then abruptly headed east and dropped down into playgrounds and backyards.

North

This summer a Russian tourist-icebreaker found a patch of open water instead of an ice cap at the North Pole. While not particularly startling in itself since the Arctic Ocean is constantly in motion, it did draw attention to the rapid thinning and shrinking of the Arctic ice pack. The latest Canadian climate model states that the Arctic Ocean could become largely free of ice in summer by 2050.

One of the earliest snowstorms ever dumped 24 cm of snow on Yellowknife on October 2, catching the city with its three sanders and two graders off-guard.

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