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Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories for 2008

Table of Contents

Regional Weather Highlights 2008

Atlantic Canada

A Storm with Everything
A slow-moving weather disturbance packing strong winds, big snows, ice pellets, rain, and freezing rain caused travel headaches in all four Atlantic provinces on January 28 and 29. Messy weather closed schools in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Accompanying warmth melted snow banks, leading to water ponding on many major roadways. More than 25 cm of snow came down hard in Moncton, New Brunswick, followed by 10 to 20 mm of ice pellets and freezing rain.

Pre-Valentine's Day Storm
On February 13, a mixed bag of nasty weather struck the Maritimes, making motor travel hazardous and leading to several flight cancellations. Schools closed for the second time in three days, and power outages were extensive. The Emergency Measures Organization in New Brunswick issued a flood warning for the southern part of the province, in particular those living or working along watercourses. In Truro, Nova Scotia, 30 to 40 mm of rain and mild temperatures assaulted the deep snowpack, leading to local flooding.

March Begins Lion-like
March began with a nasty blast of snow and wind that shut down the Confederation Bridge to all traffic for only the fourth time in 11 years. Roads were impassable as strong winds whipped freshly fallen snow, creating dangerous whiteout conditions. The weather also forced the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway at the Nova Scotia New Brunswick border for the second time in the season. Stores did not open, and several churches cancelled Sunday services. The next day the storm moved into Newfoundland and Labrador, striking southeastern Labrador with an estimated 40 cm of snow.

Storm-Stayed in Fogo
A winter storm on March 13 featuring a mixture of snow and freezing rain battered Newfoundland and Labrador, shutting schools and stores and stalling transit and air traffic. The blizzard packed its strongest punch in the central part of Newfoundland. Residents on Fogo Island off Newfoundland's northeast coast were warned to stay home because of snow slides and half a metre of drifting snow.

St. Patrick's Storm and Sheilagh's Brush
Two storms in four days, between March 13 and 16, left residents of Newfoundland and Labrador digging out from under piles of blowing and drifting snow. But the worst was yet to come. A stormy St. Patrick's Day followed with another wallop (known as a Sheilagh's Brush Storm) that dumped between 30 and 50 cm of snow. The storms shut down Newfoundland, closing schools, courts, banks, businesses, and transportation. In central Newfoundland, plows were taken off the road as the blizzard raged and caused blinding whiteouts for more than 24 hours. In the eastern portion of the province, freezing rain added to the ugly precipitation mix. Driving was treacherous on the Trans-Canada Highway. Ferries in the east remained tied up and all flights into and out of St. John's were cancelled. "Sheilagh's Brush" refers to a storm that occurs in the period around St. Patrick's Day (March 17) and the spring equinox (March 20 or 21). Sheilagh's storm had the biggest blast. St. John's received 38 cm of snow before the precipitation changed to ice pellets and rain. The Bonavista Peninsula and Clarenville areas bore the brunt of the storm, receiving up to 50 cm of snow in some areas. Winds in coastal areas exceeded 120 km/h, with wind gusts at Cape Race peaking above 140 km/h.

Icebergs and Ice Floes
Nearly 1,000 icebergs drifted into the transatlantic shipping lanes and oil fields near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, more than all icebergs from 2004 to 2007 and almost as many as there were in 1912, when the RMS Titanic sank on her maiden voyage. At times, thick ice sheets accompanied by sizable icebergs stopped production in the offshore oil fields. One iceberg roughly 100 m wide jammed the entrance of the rocky harbour at Quidi Vidi on April 30, attracting a steady flow of onlookers but also preventing ships from going back and forth.

There was also pack ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the spring, enough to disrupt commercial shipping and ferry service along Canada's East Coast. Strong, persistent winds pushed the pack ice near the harbour in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, and onto the western coast of Newfoundland, preventing passenger ferries from getting into ice-clogged ports.

Gumbo in Gambo
In late July, flash floods triggered by a torrential downpour of 70 mm in nine hours--prompted evacuation of dozens of families in Gambo, Newfoundland and Labrador. Rescue officials used canoes and heavy equipment to get around. Some homes had half a metre of water in their basements on ground levels. Some of the town's byroads became impassable in gumbo-like mud. Small streams became raging rivers. The mayor of Gambo reported it would cost millions of dollars to repair the town's flood-damaged infrastructure.

Blast of Winter Strands Hundreds in the Cobequid Pass
On the Trans-Canada Highway near the Cobequid Pass close to the Nova Scotia New Brunswick boundary, more than 1,500 cars and trucks became stranded overnight on November 19. Winter's first storm brought a modest dump of wet snow that was left blowing around in strong winds. At the height of the storm, amid freezing temperatures and whiteout conditions, traffic was at a standstill overnight along a 12-km stretch of the four-lane divided highway about 100 km north of Halifax. High winds also knocked out power to more than 20,000 customers in northern and central Nova Scotia. Sporadic power outages and treacherous driving were also reported in western Prince Edward Island.