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Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories for 2010

Table of Contents

Regional Weather Highlights 2010 

Atlantic Canada

A New Year’s Storm…Again

For the second consecutive New Year’s, an intense “weather bomb” tracked through the Maritimes bringing a blast of heavy snow, rain and strong easterly winds. Snowfall totals ranged from 25 to 45 cm and wind gusts peaked at 160 km/h at Grand Etang, Nova Scotia. An accompanying tidal surge of 6 to 8 m caused severe flood damage in coastal communities. Pointe-du-Chêne, near Shediac, New Brunswick recorded the third-highest water level in documented history. The storm surge lifted buildings off their foundations and flooded dozens of homes and businesses. Police reported three deaths related to the massive storm, which curtailed travel plans, caused power outages and made walking treacherous during this very busy holiday period. 

Newfoundland Takes the Hit

A huge slow-moving winter storm battered eastern Newfoundland with up to 50 cm of snow on February 5.  Strong northerly winds above 100 km/h whipped snow into blizzard conditions and deposited piles of snow waist-deep in St. John’s. At the height of the storm, pounding surf washed away picturesque clapboard buildings at the city’s wharf. Ironically, the storm blocked the Maritime provinces from being hit by an even bigger storm – one that buried Washington, D.C. and the eastern U.S. seaboard.

Another Winter Blast in Mid-February

Another storm that buried Washington-Baltimore and New York on February 16 took aim for Nova Scotia bringing heavy snow and whipping up what was already on the ground. Halifax got the biggest dump with 32 cm.  In addition, strong Les Suetes winds – damaging local southeasterlies – blew across Cape Breton Island creating a transportation nightmare. In Prince Edward Island, whiteouts and frequent power outages occurred. The snow mixed with rain caused the usual closures – schools, government offices and businesses. 

Mammoth End-of-February Wallop 

On February 27, thousands of Maritimers and Quebecers woke in the dark as high winds, driving rains and snow brought down hydro poles and lines across the region. Wind gusts in Halifax Harbour were clocked at more than 130 km/h. Because the storm was slow-moving, it had plenty of time to spread its misery. The Confederation Bridge closed to high-sided vehicles. A couple days later, another weather system brought a messy mix of rain, snow, ice pellets and freezing rain along with strong winds across New Brunswick in the Miramichi region. Winds kept ferries tied up in Bay of Fundy ports. Blustery winds and some ice accretion also caused havoc with power lines; authorities said the storm caused the worst outages of the winter. And just to make sure it had done its job, the storm doubled back onto New Brunswick after clean-ups were well underway, making its impact that much worse. In Quebec, about 100,000 customers also lost power.

Newfoundland Silver Thaw Storm 

An early spring storm brought a mixture of rain, snow and freezing rain to Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula between March 4 and 6. Upwards of 120 mm of rain fell in St. John’s and 52 cm of snow fell in Gander. To the north, in Bonavista, the precipitation fell mostly as freezing rain – 34 mm worth. Ice thickness on wires and cables ranged from 5 to 12 cm in diameter. Long-time veterans with Newfoundland Hydro said it was the worst ice storm in more than 25 years. Adding to the misery and impact were winds that howled at over 110 km/h. It took up to a week before full power was restored everywhere. On an interesting note, the rain that fell on St. John’s helped to make it the rainiest March for the city in recorded history. In total, 180.6 mm of rain fell that month, beating the previous record of 168.2 mm in 1982; normal March rainfall is 76.7 mm.

Fewer Flood Fears in New Brunswick

Warmer-than-normal temperatures and less-than-typical snowfall greatly reduced the flood threat across New Brunswick in spring 2010. Several locations reported less than 62 per cent of normal winter precipitation. Even more incredible, March was virtually snow-free easing the flood freshet. Further, ice break-up in rivers occurred much earlier in the season. For example, the Miramichi River had its earliest open water since 1830. And with the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Baie-des-Chaleur free of ice, gulf-flowing rivers like the Restigouche River at Campbellton were able to flush their ice quickly into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

Warm Easter, Later Frost Damage 

Early April was especially warm across Atlantic Canada. On April 1, the mercury hit 26.6°C at Margaree, Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island, not far from the normally ice-packed Gulf of St Lawrence. Stewiacke, Nova Scotia had temperatures that exceeded 20°C for four consecutive days. On April 4, Halifax recorded a maximum temperature of 24.7°C – 18°C above normal.  Daffodils bloomed on April Fool’s Day (three weeks early) and chocolate Easter eggs melted in the their foil wrapping, spoiling many an Easter egg hunt during what became the warmest April on record. The record warmth triggered fruit trees to bud three weeks faster than usual. Unfortunately, a killing frost in mid-April nipped the fragile buds and blossoms.  Apple orchards in the Annapolis Valley, where minimum temperatures dipped to -5°C for several hours, lost as much as 75 per cent of their apple buds. Some orchardists said it was potentially the worst crop damage in almost 25 years. The duration of the cooling was especially problematic for tender fruit. Once the trees start growing, they lose their hardiness. Most of the damage was confined to apples and sweet cherries, not pears, plums or peaches.

Fog Shrouds Juno

Impenetrable fog in mid-April all but shut down flights into St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – this year’s host city for the 39th annual Juno Awards. A week earlier, spectacular 17°C temperatures and sunshine prevailed.  Then, on April 15, the city was hit with snow followed the next day by thick fog at the worst possible time. Juno organizers scrambled desperately to get industry music representatives and artists into St. John’s on time.  Airlines kept turning back jets to Halifax or Gander when ground fog proved too thick to approach safely.

Miserable Wet Spring-Summer in St. John’s

Total precipitation from March through August in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador was 819.9 mm; normal totals are 544.8 mm. It was a new record, beating the previous wettest period in 1955 when 799.8 mm fell on the city.  For residents, it had to be depressing! For 36 days from April 16 to May 21 inclusive, none were dry. And over the five-month period from March 1 to July 31, there were only 32 of 153 days that were rain-free. 

Gully-Washer Floods Meat Cove

A raging torrent of water rushed through several remote communities on Cape Breton Island on August 21-22, cutting road links to the outside. At Ingonish Beach, 112.6 mm of rain fell over a two-day period. In Meat Cove, Nova Scotia flood waters damaged four bridges, a large culvert, long stretches of road and several homes. With so much water, the town was cut off. Trees and stumps, plywood, fibreglass and buoys littered the landscape. Damage estimates from the flash flood exceeded $7 million.

A Soaker in Charlottetown

Residents of Charlottetown dried out after a major soaking from a slow-moving storm on August 26. Nearly 95 mm fell on the city.  The deluge overwhelmed sewers, forced the closing of several streets and left many yards and basements flooded. 

Quebec

Major Winter Storms

On January 28-29, a low pressure system crossed Quebec intensifying as it passed over the ice-free Gulf of St. Lawrence. An associated vigorous cold front generated significant snows between 20 and 50 cm along the Lower Saint-Lawrence and in the Gaspé. On the heels of winter’s first blast, a mass of Arctic air moved in generating high windchills and, from the open waters of the St. Lawrence estuary, ocean-effect snows and squalls.

Another Atlantic winter wallop struck southern and eastern Quebec on February 6 and 7. Loads of snow fell in the Gaspésie – from 30 cm in Parc Forillon to 100 cm at Cap Madeleine. About two weeks later, on February 23-24, two low-pressure systems merged generating mixed snow and rain in southwestern Quebec. Most locations west of Mont Orford got 30 cm, and in the higher altitudes of the Laurentides almost a metre of snow fell.

On February 25, a huge complex weather system turned out to be winter’s biggest blast. It stretched from the Great Lakes to New England and hit Quebec hard. Powerful winds approaching 100 km/h along the St. Lawrence River and big snows mixed with rain triggered a multitude of power failures, leaving 100,000 Quebecers without electricity. Among those most buried in the white stuff – Freligshburg (nearly 1 m of snow); Granby and Ste-Christine (50 cm); Valcourt (30 to 45 cm); and Mont Orford (30 to 35 cm). Schools, highways and airports closed in various parts of the province, and Highway 10 in the Eastern Townships was littered with accidents.

Spring Snowstorm Surprises Montréal

Quebec City broke a 67-year-old record for the warmest March, while Montréal recorded its second mildest March on record. April promised more of the same, with no measured snowfall in Montréal from March 25 to April 26. In fact, temperatures on April 26 hit 17.8°C and residents were advised to wear sunscreen because of a high UV index. So imagine the surprise facing Montréalers the next day when temperatures plummeted and the city was blanketed with nearly 30 cm of snow. While a snowstorm at the end of April is not unheard of, this one astonished even old-time residents. But the shock that hit everyone from gardeners to terrasse patrons was short-lived; 30 hours later the ground was snow-free once more. It was a blessing there was no ice on the St. Lawrence River. Melting days and freezing nights meant minimal flooding and a bountiful maple syrup harvest. At Mont Blanc, freezing nights and mild sunny days made for fantastic spring skiing. 

Record Hot April

On the heels of an extraordinary mild winter with scanty snow totals came a balmy spring – one of the mildest on record. Temperature anomalies in April ranged between 3 and 6°C above normal across the province, making it the warmest April on record. Monthly mean temperature records were shattered in Val-d’Or, Montréal, Québec, Gaspé, Sept-Îles and La Grande. Surprisingly, the warmest day of the month was April 3 when temperatures soared to 29.6°C in Sherbrooke.

Perfect Conditions Create Classic Thunderstorm

An unstable air mass over southern and central Quebec generated just the right meteorological ingredients for the formation of severe thunderstorms on May 6. Hail 2 to 3 cm in diameter occurred in Mont-Tremblant Park, Rigaud/Valleyfield, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport and Shawinigan. Powerful wind gusts at or above 90 km/h uprooted trees and scattered backyard trampolines and patio furniture in Saint-Hyacinthe and ripped off roofs in the Eastern Townships. In and around Québec, wind damage from gusts over 105 km/h included downed lampposts, split trees and collapsed car shelters. 

All F0 Tornadoes

Quebec experiences an average of six tornadoes each year and probably ten times as many microbursts with similar wind speeds. In 2010, five tornadoes (all FO tornadoes with winds between 90 and 115 km/h) touched down in the province. On June 28, two low-intensity mini-tornadoes (F0) touched down near Montréal when a cold front undercut a warm, muggy air mass. Temperatures dropped 7°C in an hour. Touchdowns occurred in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Mascouche. Parts of Greater Montréal received 20 mm of rain, while twice that amount fell in areas within the Eastern Townships. Storm damage was minimal and included scattered backyard gazebos and trampolines, flooded viaducts, uprooted mature trees, sign damage, hail-pocked cars and broken windows. On July 16, violent thunderstorms – particularly in the Estrie and Beauce regions – spawned a tornado in Saint-Camille-de-Bellechasse, where it extensively damaged a sugar bush operation. The next day, a weak F0 tornado formed in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges-Huntingdon area of Saint-Lazare, just west of Montréal. Radar echoes revealed rainfall amounts between 50 to 100 mm. Damage was minor with overturned patio furniture, trampolines tossed up to 15 m, uprooted trees and damaged roofs. Winds of up to 100 km/h and hail 2 to 3 cm in diameter contributed to the damage. In Saint-Hyacinthe, 3-cm hail shredded branches and broke windows. At Saint-Marcel-de-Richelieu, winds uprooted trees, downed power lines and blew away metal sheds. On September 2, the year’s final tornado hit Saint-Benoit de Mirabel travelling over 4 km uprooting trees and damaging buildings.   

More Summer Mayhem

Following a week-long heat wave, a series of violent thunderstorms on July 9 triggered flash flooding across southern Quebec. In Montréal, 42 mm of rain fell in less than an hour overwhelming drainage systems and flooding underpasses, intersections and basements. The storm’s strong winds gusted to 80 km/h, knocking bricks from buildings and felling power lines and trees resulting in cut electricity to 50,000 customers. In Joliette, water levels from sewer backup and heavy rainfalls rose to the door handles of parked cars. In Drummondville-Bois-Franc, 100 km/h winds uprooted more than 400 mature trees. At Beauceville, storm rainfall amounted to 82 mm and in Québec 50 mm fell in 30 minutes.  

Rouyn Thunderstorm

On August 15-16, a very unstable air mass favoured the development of violent thunderstorms over western and southwestern Quebec. Extensive damage was reported in Rouyn. At the local hospital water leaked through the building’s roof, flooding the elevators and various rooms. Throughout the city, mature trees fell on houses and cars. At the Rouyn Airport, wind gusts of up to 106 km/h were reported.

Saguenay II

During the last week of September, southern Quebec received a drenching. Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean received up to 170 mm of rain – an accumulation only exceeded by the infamous “Saguenay Flood” of 1996 when 180 mm fell over three days. The 2010 deluge caused less damage because rains fell over a longer period. The drenching caused river levels to rise rapidly from very low to record high. Residents of La Baie had to be evacuated three times because of threatening landslides. And in Sherbrooke, over 90 mm of rain fell in less than 24 hours, causing rivers to overflow. Two deaths were attributed to the extreme weather.

Ontario

Ottawa’s Record January Rainfall

On January 25, a large juicy Colorado low tracked northeast across the upper Great Lakes into northern Ontario drawing thawing and soaking weather into most of southern portion of the province. Several hours of freezing rain preceded the “spring” weather over the Ottawa Valley. A new all-time January record for daily rainfall (43.6 mm) was set at Ottawa International Airport. More than just the wettest day in January, it was the rainiest ever for any day between January 1 and March 22 in 130 years of record. It forced the temporary closing of the Rideau Canal Skateway. Gatineau Park trails were also closed for skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. And with snow blocking drainage, water backed up onto the Queensway and into basements.

Finally Some Spring Snow

Between February 28 and April 26, Ottawa went two cold months without measuring any snow. For the world’s snowiest national capital, having no snow in March is unprecedented. When it finally snowed in late April it wasn’t enough to wreck havoc on gardens. The warmest spring on record was underway and snow didn’t have a chance of sticking around. Other cities and areas with no measureable snow in March included London, Kitchener, Toronto, Sudbury, Owen Sound and Muskoka; Windsor, however, had 0.2 cm. 

Windsor the Snowfall Capital

Speaking of Windsor, Canada’s most southerly large city claimed the dubious honour of being the snowfall champion of southern Ontario. Its snowfall total of 112.9 cm pushed the city ahead of the perennial snow-belt leader, London, where 108.7 cm of snow fell. Hamilton received only 69 cm and Toronto 46 cm. Winter storms favoured a much more zonal west-to-east trajectory, rather than the usual southwest to northeast route. Several storms brushed straight across the lower Great Lakes hitting or at least grazing Windsor.

March Rains Bring Floods

A soggy weekend in mid-March with significant rainfall totals of 75 mm led to widespread flooding across southern Ontario. Insured damages to property, especially from flooded basements, amounted to over $20 million. In addition, strong winds above 75 km/h pulled down tree limbs that – in turn – fell on hydro lines, cutting power to thousands of customers. The strong winds tossed debris around, toppled trees and blew garbage cans down the street. Rain and an accelerated snowmelt also led to a rapid rise in river levels. In London and Hamilton, conservation authorities warned people to stay away from creeks and rivers. Nearly every water course was near or over its limit.

Major Storm Turns Mother’s Day Frosty

A wallop of wind, rain and even snow occurred across Ontario leading up to Mother’s Day on May 9.  Wind gusts reached 102 km/h in the Waterloo region and along the Lake Erie shoreline – strong enough to snap trees in half, down power lines and crush vehicles. In Toronto, high winds blew rain sideways and halted subway trains. Sudbury and North Bay had 5 to 10 cm of snow. Following the wind storm, temperatures plunged below freezing leaving a carpet of frost across the province that bruised annuals planted by over-eager gardeners seduced by the warmest April on record. Fruit farmers spent nights spritzing tender blossoms in the hopes of protecting them from killer frosts. And asparagus producers in Thamesville and in Prince Edward County suffered huge losses from a freeze that lasted six to eight hours. 

Heat Wave Rehearsal

Summer came early to Ontario around May 25 when all-time high temperature records for the month were set across the province. Thermostats hit the low to mid-thirties, while humidity values were also high with the humidex reaching the low forties. In Ottawa, all-time May temperature records were broken on two consecutive days including an unbelievable 35.8°C on May 26.

A Soggy Big Smoke

On June 27, thunderstorms soaked Toronto with 53 mm of rain. It was enough to boost the month’s total rainfall to 191.6 mm – a new record high for June precipitation. The previous record of 169.2 mm was set in 2000.   

A Windy Start to Fall

A cold front passing through southern Ontario on the first day of fall triggered thunderstorms with strong winds, hail and heavy downpours. The fierce storm knocked down tree branches and power lines in areas stretching from Parry Sound and Muskoka to the Greater Toronto Area. At Toronto Pearson International Airport a wind gust was clocked at 106 km/h in the early hours of September 22.

Ottawa’s Water Torture Test

While neither the wettest August nor the wettest September ever, Ottawa experienced its wettest August-September on record. Total rainfall amounted to 343 mm, besting the previous two-month record of 325 mm in 1981. In September, 170 mm of rain fell but it felt even wetter because only seven days were without rain and another seven days had double-digit rainfall amounts. The good news? It was a warm rain, with September’s average temperature about one degree above average. 

Prairie Provinces

January Blast of Winter

On January 24, following the usual Bonspiel thaw, a massive blizzard struck the western Prairies making driving treacherous, knocking out power and even sidelining snowploughs. As much as 45 cm of snow fell in Cypress Hills near the Saskatchewan-Alberta border. Saskatchewan’s 300 snowploughs were deployed to battle the storm, but many had to quit because of zero visibility. The storm left thousands of people in Saskatchewan shivering in cold homes for up to five days while they waited for power to be restored.

What Follows Fog in 90 Days?

Winter gloom gripped normally sunny southern Saskatchewan in March as a blanket of thick fog persisted for weeks with zero visibility at times. Hoar frost made for a picturesque winter wonderland, but it also played havoc with power lines, airline schedules and highway transportation. Regina had not seen a full sunny day for about two weeks. The fog formed when mild air aloft trapped cool air at the surface, creating a stable, saturated, sluggish layer of the thick stuff. The fog’s persistence prompted old timers to remember the adage “Ninety days following the occurrence of fog brings a spell of rain or snow.” And sure enough, 90 days following the late winter fog the wettest growing season on record got underway. Hmm!

Soggy May Long Weekend 

Victoria Day campers in Saskatchewan parks got a soggy start to summer during the May long weekend. A few locals said they’d never seen that much rain on the May “2-4” weekend. The storm system featured over 50 mm of rain but also brought with it strong wind gusts, the highest of which reached 96 km/h at Watrous. On a chillier note, Cypress Hills received 10 cm of wet snow.

Hawaiian Days in Calgary

Following a taste of summer weather, with temperatures hitting 26°C mid-month, Calgarians shivered at the end of May as temperatures fell to their lowest ever for that time of the year. On May 27, the temperature was 3°C at the dinner hour and, for the first time in recorded history on this day, it snowed. The foul weather led to the cancellation of a weekend season opening baseball series between the Calgary Vipers and their challengers, a visiting team from Maui. Ironically, promoters had tagged opening day as “Hawaiian Day”. Other local events impacted or put on hold included the Calgary Marathon, the Lilac festival and the Calgary Yacht Club’s annual Icebreaker Regatta on Chestermere Lake. 

Early Ice-Jam Flooding in Manitoba 

Rising water caused an ice jam in the Shoal River on November 20, forcing 30 families to evacuate their homes in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and head for neighbouring Pelican Rapids, about 600 km northwest of Winnipeg. The water rose within 15 cm of the bottom of the bridge connecting the two communities. Officials deployed an ice-breaking machine to break the jam, while residents got busy sandbagging homes in the snow and cold to prevent flooding.

Record November Snows for Southern Saskatchewan

Regina and other locales in southern Saskatchewan broke records for the greatest November snowfall. In the Saskatchewan capital, snowfall totals varied from 40 to 60 cm, which broke the record for the snowiest November previously set in 1941 when 53.7 cm of the white stuff fell. October-November snowfall totals accounted for nearly two-thirds of what is typically a year’s annual accumulation – almost a month before the first day of winter. 

British Columbia

Avalanches – Another Deadly Year

Avalanches claimed 12 lives across Canada in 2010 – all but one in British Columbia. While this year’s number is close to the annual average of 14 deaths, it is less than half of last’s year’s toll of 26. This year, dry, warm conditions early in the winter followed by lengthy dry spells that never allowed the snow to bond and strengthen, created an unstable “hair-trigger” snowpack. It is no surprise that most avalanche deaths occurred in March, when heavy snows overloaded the weak bottom layers and brought avalanche conditions to a peak. When blue skies beckoned snow enthusiasts shortly thereafter, the larger numbers out on the slopes threatened to act as an avalanche trigger – especially in backcountry. The season’s worst fatal accident occurred March 13 near Revelstoke when an avalanche roared down Boulder Mountain during a snowmobile competition. Two people were killed and thirty were injured in an avalanche powerful enough to destroy a house. The snow slide was 150 m wide and 10 m deep and roared down the hill in seconds, tossing people and machines like toys for close to a kilometre. 

Good Friday Storm

A rabid wind storm hit the B.C. Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island on the first day of the Easter long weekend, causing headaches for homeowners and holiday travellers alike. Wind gusts as strong as 90 km/h on land and 144 km/h over water, along with relentless rains, pummelled the south coast and resulted in ferry cancellations, road closures and power outages. Vancouver police closed Stanley Park, the Causeway and the Lions Gate Bridge as a precaution due to falling trees and flying building debris. Thousands of travellers on Good Friday were left scrambling when B.C. Ferries cancelled service. In Victoria, the wind was the worst the provincial capital has seen in years. At the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre, rescuers responded to an unprecedented 37 calls of boats sinking, vessels smashing up against rocks and sailors going adrift.

Oliver Landslide

Following a wet spring, quadruple the usual May and early June rains triggered a disastrous landslide in the B.C. Interior on June 13 that inflicted millions of dollars in damages. The excessive rains caused the Testalinden Lake above the Okanagan town of Oliver to breach its banks and overflow an earthen dam built in the 1930s, unleashing a torrent of mud, rocks and trees. The debris flow measured 100 to 300 m wide, snapping trees and demolishing five homes and cabins near Oliver. It also took out orchards and vineyards, and covered roads and highways with a 3-m deep ooze, burying cars. The landslide forced the evacuation of many residents and workers and closed the Okanagan Highway in both directions. The surface area of the debris flow was estimated at 200,000 square metres, making it one of the largest landslides in history.

May-June Gloom

May and June were cool, wet and gloomy across much of British Columbia. Experts called it the worst year ever for plant diseases. Gardens all over suffered from fungal disease and powdery mildew, as well as a high incidence of insect infestations, mostly due to prolonged cool temperatures, high levels of humidity, and weeks and weeks of sunless skies. The exceptionally mild winter didn’t help either, enabling fungal spores to survive the winter. All this was a boon to garden centres that did a roaring business in organic fungicide sprays.  

Finally Some Heat

After a cold, damp spring, a sudden heat wave during the first week of July melted records at 30 weather stations across the province. At Chilliwack, the temperature rose to 34.7°C, smashing the previous record of 32.8°C in 1920. Victoria reported a blistering 33.2°C. In the Interior, temperatures were consistently between 35° and 38°C with Lillooet logging in as the nation’s hot spot at 38.6°C. The air quality in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley worsened during the hot spell.

Massive Landslide near Pemberton

A stretch of mid-summer warm weather triggered a late melting of snow and ice on the Capricorn Glacier of Mount Meager above Pemberton, B.C. On August 6, a massive landslide comprised of rock, snow and flood waters barrelled down the mountainside near a campground north of the city, trapping more than a dozen campers and prompting an evacuation by helicopter. The slide diverted the Lillooet River and blocked the Meager Creek, causing a 10-km long lake to form behind the dam. About 40 million cubic metres of rock, mud, snow, ice and debris blocked access to the main road, as well as a popular hiking and camping area north of Pemberton. It was one of the largest slides in Canadian history.

Heat Wave #2 

Around mid-August another heat wave gripped parts of southern British Columbia. Temperatures August 13 to 15 were the highest on record in Victoria, including a sultry 33.4°C on August 14. In Chilliwack it was even warmer at 35.7°C – its hottest day ever. Residents took full advantage of the warm weather, packing beaches and campsites and floating down rivers to stay cool. On a negative note, 70 per cent of the province was under an extreme or high fire danger rating. And across the south, thick smoke from wildfires became a serious health and safety issue. 

Vancouver’s Wettest August Day 

On August 31, a storm from the Gulf of Alaska swept down the coast stalling over Vancouver. The slow progress of the storm generated heavy day-long rains that caused the city to experience its rainiest August day ever with more than 55 mm of precipitation. The wet weather was good news for forest firefighters around the province and was well received by camping enthusiasts whose plans for open campfires had been doused since July. 

Potatoes under Water

Twice the normal rainfall in the fall season left two-thirds of the Fraser Valley potato and other root crops rotting in the ground. In Delta, a third of its annual rainfall fell in just 40 days between August 31 and early October. One veteran grower said his family has never seen it so wet since they began farming in 1898.  Losses were expected to exceed $30 million. 

North

Stranded Hunter Found Near Resolute

Alone and adrift on the Arctic Ocean, a stranded Inuk seal hunter was rescued almost three days after the ice floe he was snowmobiling across broke away and began floating in the open sea. Snow and a temperature of -32°C (-50 wind chill) added to his hardship. By the time the sealer was rescued on January 25, he had drifted about 40 km east into the Northwest Passage. Rescue by plane and helicopter had been repeatedly hindered by high winds, snow and mechanical problems.

G7 Ministers Meet in “Club Med North”

Early February usually marks the dead of winter in Iqaluit, Nunavut, with possible temperature lows of -43.3°C.  Fortunately, visitors experienced weather that was more like an Arctic heat wave with temperatures of -13.5°C. Attendees went dog sledding and some even ate seal meat at a communal feast.

April Showers on Ellef Rignes Island

British explorers on Ellef Rignes Island in Canada’s Far North reported a three-minute rain shower on April 25. The rain fell on the team’s ice base about 3,900 km north of Ottawa. April showers in the high Canadian Arctic are a freak event. At Isachsen, there has never been an observation of rain in thirty Aprils. Its earliest measurement of rainfall (0.3 mm) occurred on June 7, 1975. In Alert, Nunavut, with observations dating back to 1950, no rain has ever fallen in April – the earliest ever was May 21, 1988. 

Icebergs and Ice Islands Head South

On August 5, a large section of the Petermann Glacier calved and began moving slowly out of its fjord in the northwestern corner of Greenland. The calved portion measured approximately 280 km2. A month later it broke into two large pieces as it entered Nares Strait heading south. By early October, the two ice islands entered Baffin Bay and continued to break into small pieces posing a hazard to navigation – especially in shallow waters. Also in mid-summer, a huge chunk of ice cracked off Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on Ellesmere Island. The ancient slab of ice measured about 50 km2 in area and almost 400 m thick. The Ward Hunt is the oldest and largest of the remaining ice shelves that have clung to Ellesmere Island for nearly 5,000 years.

Nunavik’s North Coast Takes a Pounding

Some of the highest tides ever seen locally occurred along Nunavik’s Hudson Strait and northern Ungava between October 8 to 11. Strong winds pushed tides along the shore in the communities of Salluit, Quaqtaq and Kangirsuk. Some residents saw the water rise within metres of their dwellings. Higher than normal amounts of rain also fell across Nunavik. 

Arctic Heat Wave Delays Ice Growth 

Frequently during the fall season very mild air associated with a blocking pattern over Greenland and strong low-pressure systems parked over Quebec, brought unseasonable warmth and clear skies to parts of the eastern Arctic. Record high temperatures were set on several days between September and early December at Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Hall Beach and elsewhere. The warmth was especially noticeable in mid-November when residents basked in temperatures almost 20°C above average. (At the same time, temperatures in western Canada were averaging 20°C below normal). There were several places in eastern Nunavut where previous records for the warmest November were demolished – in some cases, by three or four degrees. Owing to the extended warmth, ice formation was about four weeks later than usual in Foxe Basin and ice coverage was at its lowest since records first began in 1971. In Hudson Bay, ice covered less than 2 per cent of the sea compared to the average of 20 per cent in mid-November. 

Pangnirtung Cleans-up From Hurricane-force Winds

On November 27, strong wind gusts around 130 km/h damaged several buildings in Pangnirtung, Nunavut sending debris flying around town. Residents were amazed by the force of the wind that was strong enough to flip a truck over and tear the roof off two housing complexes. Power lines were scattered and there were broken windows everywhere. In addition, oil tanks were toppled over and boats and vehicles were damaged. Clean-up efforts were hampered two days later when up to 20 cm of snow fell. Fortunately, there were no injuries.