Regional highlights for the Prairie Provinces for 2008

Table of Contents

World's Longest Hockey Game

In an Edmonton, Alberta backyard on a full-size ice rink, 40 hockey players broke the world record for longest continuous outdoor hockey play. Each participant averaged 12 hours of ice time a day over 240 hours. The weather ranged from bitter to balmy in the marathon to raise money for cancer research. The first few days were the toughest, with temperatures dipping to -40°C. The feat was recognized by the Guinness World Records officials. The final score was 2,250 for Team Cure and 2,223 for Team Hope.

Close-call Flooding

When an intense downpour of 36 mm fell in Calgary on June 10 and 11, Alberta Environment imposed a flood watch on the Fish Creek and high flow advisories for several other rivers, namely the Bow River and Elbow River. Rivers were running high and fast but, apart from some low-level parks, no serious flooding occurred.

Busy Weather Day in Manitoba

A large, powerful weather system spawned several tornadoes and produced copious rains over much of southern Manitoba on June 27. Heavy rains and hail in Winnipeg flooded streets and underpasses, and caused traffic lights outages. Environment Canada confirmed that five tornadoes touched down briefly in southern Manitoba and a waterspout was spotted over Lake Manitoba.

Canada Day Floods

On July 1, a torrential downpour (45 mm in less than two hours) prompted authorities in Lethbridge to issue a local state of emergency. Heavy rains flooded streets, underpasses and basements in several neighbourhoods. The water pressure was so great it blew manhole covers five metres into the air. The excessive water caused a sewage overflow into the Oldman River, leading health officials to issue a warning to residents not to drink, bathe or shower, or wash dishes or clothes in untreated water. Torrential rains in southern Alberta forced the closing of Fort Whoop-Up, an interpretive replica of a late-19th-century trading post near Lethbridge. Police closed roads in low-lying areas near the city because of flooding and warned area residents to avoid travelling.

The Taber "Twister"

In mid-July, violent weather featuring hail, intense rain, powerful downburst gusts and tornadic winds raked across southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Hot weather and high moisture created the perfect recipe for tornado weather. The storms did extensive damage to equipment, buildings, and crops and several fields were taken right out of production. While wind was the issue in many places, hail was the big destroyer in Taber wiping out half of the corn crop and much of the grain and specialty vegetable crops. Taber farmers lost millions of dollars when entire fields of corn were shredded by the hail.

Powerful winds of hurricane force and twisting winds raked large sections of property between Vulcan and Taber, and on to Medicine Hat. Granaries were picked up and moved. Tree damage was widespread. At a communication tower outside of Seven Persons, south of Medicine Hat, a wind gust of 215 km/h was recorded just prior to the tower crumpling in the wind. Because this was a non-standard site, this Canadian record is unofficial. The highest gust record in the national archives since 1953 was 193 km/h, recorded at Cape St James, British Columbia, and St John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Lost power in Coaldale, Burdett and Bow Island affected 15,000 customers. At least 50 power poles were toppled when trees came down on lines. An airfield near Irvine, outside Medicine Hat, was damaged and small planes were tossed around like toys. AltaLink said about 20 of the utility's large transmission towers were either knocked down or damaged. Taber's airport was also hit hard. One hangar was destroyed, as were the planes inside it.

Alberta-Wide Scorcher

Scorching heat shot the mercury up to an all-time record high of 35.6°C at Edmonton International Airport on August 18, eclipsing the previous all-time daily high of 35.3°C, set on August 5, 1998. Over a longer span at other Edmonton weather sites, it was also the second hottest day recorded since record-keeping first began in 1880. As the mercury soared in the Alberta capital, so did electricity consumption -hitting an all-time high. (The previous record for electricity consumption was set only seven months earlier in January 2008, when the mercury sank to -32°C.) In Calgary, poolside lineups and fans flying off store shelves were signs of another record-breaking hot day. Blistering heat of 34°C on August 18 broke an almost century-old temperature record. More than a dozen other daily records were broken around the province, including Banff, Drumheller and Lethbridge. Surprisingly, only one person went to hospital with heat exhaustion as people heeded warnings and wore hats, stayed out of the sun and kept hydrated.

Summer at Last!

The temperature at Winnipeg International Airport soared to 30.2°C on August 16, the first official hot day of the summer and the latest date for a 30°C reading since records began in the city in 1872. The previous latest date was set on July 24,- first in 1882 and again in 1927. As it turned out, in 2008, the city experienced 5 hot days in 2008, compared to the usual 14. By mid-August, half of Winnipeg's wading pools were supposed to have been closed for the season, but the city reconsidered a late closing given the tardy arrival of summer.

Drought Spells Disaster for Crops

It was a bone-dry spring and summer throughout much of the Peace Country in northwestern Alberta. The drought prompted officials to declare an agricultural disaster in the counties of Grande Prairie, Clear Hills and Spirit River. It was the worst drought in decades, especially ravaging to grain and oilseed crops, as well as to hay and pasture. For Grande Prairie, June and July rainfall totals were a meagre 60 mm, about 41 per cent of normal levels and the driest such period in more than 40 years. The extreme dryness continued farther south. Edmonton's summer rainfall total was 109 mm or 43 per cent of normal, making it the driest summer on record at the International Airport, where records go back to 1959. When the records going back to 1883 are considered, this summer was the second driest in 125 years. In 1939, summer rainfall amounted to 70 mm.

Labour Day Rains

A slow-moving low pressure system brought copious amounts of rain to parts of southern Manitoba over the Labour Day weekend. The heaviest rainfall amounts occurred in a swath from Dauphin through Gypsumville to Berens River where upwards of 75 mm fell with localized amounts near 100 mm. The Manitoba government issued a flood warning for a portion of the southern Interlake region from Ashern to Gypsumville. Overland flooding ponded fields, swelled ditches and overtopped roads. Many homes experienced basement flooding due to seepage while others were surrounded by water. Following a summer of heavy, incessant precipitation, more September rain was the final straw for cattle producers unable to afford hay, they began liquidating their herds.

Thanksgiving Snows

Around October 12 and 13, about 17 cm of wet, slushy snow fell in an area of Saskatchewan stretching from Yorkton through Regina to Moose Jaw, and south to the American border. Icy, slippery and slush-covered roads made for treacherous driving that resulted in several accidents with at least one traffic-related death and several injuries. In Regina, one vehicle skidded off the Trans-Canada Highway and plunged into Wascana Creek. Thanksgiving snows were reminiscent of the famous holiday snowstorm of 1998 when the southern and central districts of the province were buried in 25 to 70 cm of snow.

Record October Winds

On October 25, a day-long storm packing winds of more than 100 km/h blew through central Alberta. In Edmonton, loose sheet metal, parts of billboards, garbage cans and pieces of trees blew around, striking power lines and transformers, causing shortages and knocking out traffic lights. Power was cut to 4,000 addresses. Environment Canada recorded wind gusts of up to 102 km/h in Edmonton, the strongest October wind ever recorded in the city. Air quality dropped briefly in blowing dust. In a freak accident, a wind-toppled tree trunk crushed the passenger side of a moving vehicle, killing the occupant. Grassfires near Birch Lake forced the evacuation of 300 Alexis Reserve residents when extreme wind gusts whipped up a large fire to within a kilometre of the town site.

Storms Aplenty in Saskatchewan

Summer was cooler than normal throughout Saskatchewan. At times, however, warm, moist air at the surface and cool air above meant that even weak weather systems, with enough daytime instability, were able to generate violent thunderstorms. The following figures show the number of severe weather events in Saskatchewan, followed (in parentheses) by normal occurrences: hail 99 (43); tornado 19 (12); wind 24 (18); rain 4 (6); total 144 (79). There were also 44 funnel cloud sightings. Four twisters hit the province on July 27, though none inflicted significant losses. Saskatchewan has not had that many tornadoes in one day since the early 1990s.

On July 10, a tornado raced through Carlyle and Stoughthon, demolishing several buildings, unroofing several others and snapping power poles. In Carlyle, the twister destroyed a greenhouse and caused a gas line to rupture, forcing a temporary evacuation. On July 22, a vicious thunderstorm hammered parts of Regina. At the Royal Regina Golf Club, where the Saskatchewan Amateur men's golf championship was being played, winds toppled tents and furniture and littered the course with branches and leaves. Throughout the city, emergency officials dealt with lightning strikes, felled trees, flooded streets and power outages. On August 26, a small tornado touched down at a golf course near Spruce Home, Saskatchewan, where it damaged some equipment sheds as well as the roof of the course's clubhouse. The twister also took down 26 nearby power poles with lines and trees. A couple of schools were damaged and six people were treated for minor injuries. The cyclone blew a greenhouse right across a yard and tossed a full 45-gallon water barrel.

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