Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories for 2012

Ontario - Regional Highlights

Aircraft Accident

During a blinding snowstorm on January 10, a small plane crashed while travelling from Winnipeg, killing four people. The crash occurred at North Spirit Lake, an isolated reserve about 300 km north of Kenora where rescuers had to snowmobile and tramp through deep snow to get to the site. They frantically tried to douse the flames with snow while others pumped lake water from below the ice. Sadly, only one person survived the fiery wreckage.

Finally, a Touch of Winter

On February 23, a storm from the southern United States suddenly intensified as it tracked across southern Ontario. Significant snowfalls occurred north of the system in strong northwesterly winds, and local snow squalls of 10 to 30 cm developed from Goderich to Waterloo and on to the Ottawa Valley. In the Toronto area, umbrellas were in use, but in Cornwall it was shovels as snowfalls on February 24 and 25 measured over 44 cm. Right on the heels of the storm, warmer air with rain moved into the province changing the snow into messy slush.

Ice Jams Prompt Evacuations - Again

Two First Nations communities along the James Bay coast faced a state of emergency and evacuation on March 24 as ice break-up on the Albany River caused jams and flooding. Officials evacuated 300 residents in the First Nations of Kashechewan and Fort Albany – a situation that has become all too common in the flood-prone area in recent years.

Hailstorm Pelts Essex County

Farmers in Essex County incurred millions of dollars in damages after ping-pong-sized hail driven by strong winds ripped through fields on the Canada Day weekend. Some wineries near Lake Erie were hit by quarter-sized hail causing heavy bruising to grapes, and significant damage was inflicted on fields of good-looking corn, wheat, soybeans and tomatoes. Several rural buildings also suffered damage and trees were denuded as winds at some locations exceeded 150 km/h.

Texas-sized Hailstones

On July 2, a series of thunderstorms moved across northwestern Ontario. One cell over Sioux Lookout produced hail up to 9 cm in diameter – the size of softballs and some of the biggest hailstones ever seen in Ontario.

September Twisters

On September 8, from London towards Ottawa and north to the Nickel Belt, storms drenched and buffeted the province. Rain amounts reached 55 mm in Mount Forest and Dundalk, 62 mm at Trenton and 74 mm at Barrie, but topped at 100 mm in the Ottawa/Outaouais region as lightning and heavy rains pounded the area. The storm caused two sinkholes in the Outaouais right across the Ontario-Quebec border less than a week after a sinkhole swallowed a car and closed a highway in Ottawa. Also part of the storm package was an F2 tornado near Storms Corners east of Napanee. It was the province’s eighth twister of the season with peak winds that ranged between 180 and 210 km/h – strong enough to uproot trees and transport heavy farm machinery over 100 m.

Twister number nine hit the town of Wellington, bordering on Lake Ontario, on September 22 as a line of showers and thunderstorms moved through parts of Eastern Ontario. Along its 70-m path, the F0 tornado tossed lawn furniture up to 50 m, threw a picnic table across a property, and shifted and lifted a wooden deck off its foundation with wind speeds reaching up to 110 km/h.

Record Year for Great Lakes Waterspouts

Great Lakes waters were record warm in September and October, so when the first cold burst of air came down from the north it created ideal conditions for the formation of waterspouts. And what an active season it was with a record 186 waterspouts being reported by October 11, shattering the old record of 94 set in 2003. Environment Canada waterspout expert Wade Szilagyi pointed to the favourable weather-water conditions and an increase in reporting through social media as likely reasons behind the record-setting year. On September 22, one Lake Ontario spout might have continued onshore as a F0 tornado.

Wawa Wallop

A slow-moving cold front brought several bands of showers and heavy thunderstorms to areas northeast of Lake Superior on October 24 and 25. Two-day rainfalls were as much as 133 mm at Wawa and 128 mm at Pukaswa. Water from overflowing creeks washed away entire sections of the Trans-Canada Highway north and south of Wawa, sent a motel crashing into a sink hole and knocked out phone service, leading the northern Ontario community of 3,000 people to declare a state of emergency. Submerged roads left surrounding communities such as Michipicoten First Nation completely cut off, prompting a helicopter evacuation of 20 elderly and infirm residents. Damage estimates were said to be $10 million.

Remembrance Day Warmth to Remember

A miserable winter storm in northern Ontario helped pull warm Gulf of Mexico air up into southern and central Ontario on November 11 and 12. Bright sunshine pumped up the heat to record levels in places like Toronto (19.7°C), Ottawa (21.1°C) and Welland (20.0°C). Even in North Bay temperatures climbed above 15°C. Some places in western Quebec close to the Ontario-Quebec border also got a nice dose of summer air with temperatures hitting a record at 18.8°C on November 12.