Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories for 2012

Prairie Provinces - Regional Highlights

Winter Comes and Goes

It was a long time coming, but winter finally made a brief but brutal appearance across the West with a mid-January deep freeze. Northwest of Edmonton, the wind chill dipped to -52. temperatures dipped to -52 with the wind. Thousands of Calgary elementary school children were kept inside at recess, roads were slick and the Bow River was shrouded in mist. The extreme cold also prompted ski hills to close in Banff and at Calgary’s Olympic Park. In Saskatchewan, residents set a record for gas consumption and electricity use over a 24-hour period. City services were also impacted with garbage pick-up delays, school bus cancellations and school closures. There was even a decline in crime. The freeze was also a contributing factor in a spate of train derailments in the West as frigid temperatures wreaked havoc on braking systems.What surprised most westerners was not that the cold spell occurred but that it was short-lived – only eight days later thawing temperatures settled back in across the Prairies.

Snow Can’t Stop Curling

A moist, robust and intense Pacific weather system moved into southern Alberta on March 4 and on to Saskatchewan the next day. The slowness of the storm resulted in heavy snowfall totals ranging from 10 cm at Calgary to 35 cm in Banff, 40 cm in Airdrie and 42 cm at Horburg. The storm forced several flight cancellations and long travel delays. In Saskatoon, 20 cm of snow in strong winds created delays downtown especially with added traffic from the Canadian Brier.

White Easter Followed by Record Warm

An intense Easter storm rolled northward from Montana spreading a band of heavy wet snow across much of southern and central Alberta and into Saskatchewan. Precipitation began as rain and quickly changed to heavy snow. Up to 30 cm of blowing snow caused reduced visibility and treacherous driving conditions. It also brought down branches and trees, took down utility lines and traffic lights, and caused commuter chaos. The area west of Stony Plain, Alberta was hit the hardest with 30 cm of snow. In Saskatchewan, snowfall totals exceeded 45 cm in Kelvington and 30 cm in Porcupine Plain and Wynyard. Immediately following the storm, sunny skies and dry warm air prevailed with record temperatures reaching 20°C and 15°C in Dauphin and Thompson, Manitoba respectively.

Massive Supercell with Everything

On June 5 and 6, one of the largest thunderstorms in years moved from Montana into Alberta setting off a series of violent storm cells. The severe weather included heavy rain, wind-driven hail, frequent lightning, and numerous sightings of funnel clouds and tornadoes. The strongest tornado stuck a rural area near Taber felling trees and damaging several farm buildings. Other funnel clouds and possible tornado sightings occurred at Bow Island, Brooks and Vulcan. Winds clocked at 130 km/h and monsoon-like rains falling at 40 mm/h led to downed power lines and flooded streets and basements. Even gas lines were worked loose. In some parts of the province up to 75 mm of rain fell leading to high streamflow advisories.

Demand Exceeds Supply

As temperatures soared on July 9, a series of ordered blackouts swept across Alberta leaving tens of thousands temporarily without electricity. The rare blackouts were necessitated by high energy demand – mostly from fans, air conditioners and irrigation systems – that far outstripped supply. The hot weather arrived just in time for the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede. Other Alberta hot spots included Banff (31.1°C), Drumheller (34.3°C) and Edmonton (33.1°C). In Saskatchewan, the land of the wind chill became the home of the humidex with several advisories warning that it would feel like 40 degrees or higher. And in Manitoba, hot and humid conditions prompted the province’s chief public health officer to issue a heat advisory.

Storm Chasers Kept Busy in Saskatchewan

Storm after storm occurred in Saskatchewan during a summer of wicked weather. One of the most violent episodes battered parts of western and central Saskatchewan between June 25 and 27. Environment Canada received 500 reports of funnel clouds and possible tornadoes. Storm chasers from the Battlefords to Prince Albert and south to Regina were run off their feet keeping up with the outbreaks. In one 30-minute period lightning sensors recorded 10,000 strikes leaving thousands without power in over 22 communities. Employees of major utilities and communication companies couldn’t remember having to deal with such widespread outages. The storms also caused flash flooding between Kindersley and Prince Albert, while baseball-sized hail pummeled North Battleford and frequent, blustery winds pushed houses off foundations, demolished outer buildings and tossed around machinery and grain bins.

Nature’s Summer Fury

On July 29, a line of severe thunderstorms packing hail, torrential rains and powerful straight-line winds tracked across southeastern Manitoba. At Twin Lakes Beach, 118 km/h winds caused extensive damage to cabins, boathouses and cottages. Near Woodlands, winds derailed a train. And at Pinawa, violent winds uprooted 12 m tall trees, ripped off roofs and tore away shingles. There were also eyewitness reports of a tornado near Lac du Bonnet.

Warm Winnipeg

Between August 2011 and July 2012, Winnipeg set a record for its warmest 12-month period. The average temperature of 6°C was almost 3.5°C warmer than normal and shattered the previous record of 5.6°C that stood since 1877. At the city’s airport, July’s average temperature was 22.3°C – the warmest ever. Afternoon temperatures that month soared above 30°C on 14 days; normal is 4 and the record (from 2006) is 16.