Canada's top ten weather stories of 2013
- 2013 - A Year in Review
- 1. Alberta's Flood of Floods
- 2. Toronto's Torrent
- 3. Bumper Crops in the West, So-So for the Rest
- 4. The Nightmare during Christmas
- 5. To Flood or Not to Flood?
- 6. Rebound in the Arctic Ocean and the Great Lakes
- 7. Wicked Winter Weather Wallops the East
- 8. Spring Flooding in Ontario’s Cottage Country
- 9. Prairie Winter Went on Forever
- 10. Stormy Seas and Maritime Tragedy
- Runner-up Stories
- Atlantic Regional Highlights
- Quebec - Regional Highlights
- Ontario - Regional Highlights
- Prairie Provinces - Regional Highlights
- British Columbia - Regional Highlights
- The North - Regional Highlights
Ontario - Regional Highlights
- Spectacular January Thaw
- Highway Chaos
- Another January Thaw
- April Cruel
- Coming of Spring
- James Bay Flooding
- A Tornado Swarm
- Torrential May Rains
- Windsor’s Wettest Month on Record
- A Soaker in the North
- Four Tornado Days
- Sault Soaker in September
- Soggy September Weekend
- Record Wet Fall
- Swarm of Waterspouts over Lakes Ontario and Erie
- First-ever Snow-nado?
- Classic Lake-effect Snowstorms
1. Spectacular January Thaw
Unseasonably mild air pushed up into southern Ontario before travelling eastward across Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Daytime highs soared into the double digits in many locales including 14.6°C in Toronto on January 12, which was five degrees above the previous record set in 1995. Unfortunately, between 20 and 50 mm of spring-like rains accompanied the unseasonable warmth. Roofing and general contracting companies were flooded with emergency calls after frequent freeze-thaw cycling led to serious roof leaks. The rush of water also overwhelmed drainage systems and flooded basements and back yards. Under the spell of spring fever, many took the opportunity to wash their cars, play sports in shorts, barbecue or take down Christmas lights.
2. Highway Chaos
On January 25, a snow squall over Lake Ontario pushed onshore in the Oshawa-to-Brighton area. The ensuing near-zero visibility was a contributing factor in a 70-vehicle collision that occurred on Highway 401 resulting in five injuries. Cars were left sideways and upside down, closing all west- and east-bound lanes.
3.Another January Thaw
A second wave of thawing with double-digit temperatures returned to southern Ontario at the end of January. Temperatures more typical of late April and May hit Windsor (14.5°C), Sarnia (12.4°C) and five other sites. Heavy rains, record mild temperatures and speedy snowmelt raised water levels on the Thames River in London causing flooding in low-lying areas and in basements. In Ottawa, a record high of 11.6°C was warm enough to shut down the Rideau Canal Skateway two days before the opening of Winterlude.
4. April Cruel
Three weeks into spring a final wintery blast of weather tracked across Ontario, bringing a tricky mix of ice pellets, snow and freezing rain carried along by strong winds. Power outages occurred when downed tree limbs fell on ice-encased power lines. Across Ontario, 115,000 customers were without power with some remaining shut down for three days. Slick roads led to several crashes and shut schools.
5. Coming of Spring
Spring weather arrived in southern Ontario on April 18 but it featured some summer meanness. A line of strong thunderstorms featuring straight-line winds and a tornado inflicted property damage on parts of south-central Ontario. An EF-1 tornado, Canada’s first of 2013, with winds between 135 to 175 km/h ripped through Dufferin County about 6 km northwest of Shelburne, knocking down hydro wires, ripping at a barn roof and bringing down trees.
6. James Bay Flooding
A spring ritual on the shores of James Bay occurred on May 2 when flooding and backed-up sewers threatened the northern Ontario First Nations communities of Attawapiskat and Kashechewan. Sewage and water flooded forty homes and buildings. In the end, eight communities in Ontario’s far north came under states of emergency warnings, including Moosonee, mostly due to rising waters.
7. A Tornado Swarm
On May 21, two thunderstorm clusters raced across southern Ontario bringing frequent lightning, hail, heavy downpours, strong and gusty winds, and three tornadoes – one south of Midland, another near Barrie, and a third near Glenarm in Kawartha Lakes. The Glenarm tornado was the most powerful; an EF-2 with peak winds between 180 and 200 km/h. In addition to the tornadoes, straight-line winds caused significant damage southwest of Fenelon Falls. Twisting winds were strong enough to debark trees and toss roofs into the air.
8. Torrential May Rains
A round of thunderstorms brought excess rains to Toronto and parts of southern Ontario on May 29. Port Stanley and Toronto East York reported the most rainfall, with 89.0 mm and 70.2 mm respectively. In Toronto, the rains were enough to flood the Don Valley Parkway, which became completely impassable during the morning rush hour with sections in both directions either under water or coated in mud and debris. Flood waters rose as high as vehicle doors in some spots and also inundated GO Transit tracks.
9. Windsor’s Wettest Month on Record
July was the wettest month in history in Windsor – 262.2 mm – some three times the monthly normal of 82 mm. The previous all-time record was 244 mm set in 1969. It even beat the wettest month ever – September 1981 with 246.1 mm. It rained hard and often during the month with 21 wet days, which was also a record. The frequent deluges caused headaches for local farmers. As one grower said: “I just can’t get on the field because the machinery doesn’t float.”
10. A Soaker in the North
A slow-moving low-pressure system gave parts of northern and central Ontario significant amounts of rain over the weekend of July 26 to 28. Thunderstorm rains totalled 92 mm in Nagagami, 64 mm in Armstrong, and 62 mm in Sault Ste. Marie, Geraldton and Kapuskasing. With cooler air, conditions were favourable for the development of waterspouts. At least 12 funnel clouds and seven waterspouts were spotted over the Great Lakes and Lake Nipissing.
11. Four Tornado Days
A line of severe thunderstorms developed late on August 7 from Arthur to Orillia to north of Minden. The thunderstorms produced four weak tornadoes. The strongest twister, an EF-1, took out a swath of trees northwest of Haliburton.
12. Sault Soaker in September
Severe thunderstorms with up to 100-mm downpours and thousands of intense lightning strobes occurred on September 9 from Manitoulin Island to Sault Ste. Marie. Flooding waters, washouts and mudslides closed sections of highways and city streets. Excessive rains led to evacuations, flooded basements and washed away culverts, opening up sinkholes and blowing off manhole covers. On a sad note, a motorcyclist drowned in a washout. In Sault Ste. Marie’s north end, flash flooding contributed to the collapse of a railway trestle.
13. Soggy September Weekend
A slow-moving cold front combined with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico produced heavy bands of rain and scattered thunderstorms across much of southern Ontario on September 20 and 21. Total rainfall exceeded 100 mm in London (Dorchester), Wellesley, New Hamburg and Waterloo, while areas from southern Georgian Bay to Bancroft received nearly 50 mm of rain. The September soaker washed out several activities planned for the International Plowing Match near Mitchell and Stratford.
14. Record Wet Fall
The exceptionally wet fall had to be a huge disappointment to residents and tourists wanting to view the fall colours in all their splendour. Locations like Owen Sound experienced their wettest October on record with over 200 mm of rain or just over twice the normal rainfall. Between October 15 and November 2, every day in Owen Sound was wet. Indeed, the entire year broke wet weather records. By December 4, yearly precipitation in the city totalled 1294 mm beating the previous wettest year record set in 2011.
15. Swarm of Waterspouts over Lakes Ontario and Erie
On October 20, a spectacular number of waterspouts were sighted over the Great Lakes – 67 in total, with 54 and 13 over Lakes Ontario and Erie respectively. Many spouts lasted up to 15 minutes. It was a Great Lakes record (more than double the previous number). According to Wade Szilagyi, Environment Canada’s authority on waterspouts, it was also a world record for a single-day total.
16. First-ever Snow-nado?
On November 23, a very rare late season tornado touched down north of Prescott when a sharp cold front tracked through Eastern Ontario. The EF-1 tornado featured winds around 150 km/h, which was strong enough to damage a farm silo and inflict other minor property damage. It was one of the latest tornadoes ever reported in Canada and occurred in a “blizzard” of snow and hail with freezing temperatures. Environment Canada’s Dave Sills, a Canadian expert on tornadoes, said it might be Canada’s first recorded “snow-nado”. [Note: Environment Canada confirmed 22 tornadoes in Ontario this year, which is almost twice the seasonal average of 12. Most, however, were weak and short-lived.]
17. Classic Lake-effect Snowstorms
Cold arctic air plunged across southern Ontario on November 23 and 24, turning on the lake-effect snow engine to the lee of the warm waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The weather station in London received 32 cm of snow, but areas farther west close to St. Thomas were hit by steady streamers that dumped as much as 70 cm. Police across the region responded to dozens of crashes on area streets and highways. To the north, near Barrie, a blast of heavy snowfall triggered a series of collisions involving up to 40 vehicles on Highway 400 in dangerous whiteout conditions that sent vehicles slamming into each other, careening into ditches and crashing into guard rails. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.
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