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Canada's Top Ten Weather Stories for 2011

Atlantic - Regional Highlights

January Nor’easters Pound the Atlantic Provinces

Ten days after a massive, slow-moving nor’easter marched across the Maritimes dumping 35 cm of heavy, wet snow another nasty nor’easter struck the region.  It showed no mercy in Newfoundland, where 30 cm of snow and 120 km/h winds slayed the western and central parts of the province. Visibility was poor to nil at times and treacherous surfaces slowed traffic to a crawl, with several vehicles sliding into ditches or slamming into trees. Passengers aboard buses and planes experienced long delays, but the ferry service continued to run on schedule. Strong winds forced the closure of the Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (PEI) to all but cars and small vans. And on Cape Breton Island, winds known as Les Suêtes huffed at 130 km/h.

Another Winter Storm

Around January 27, another winter storm – the fifth of the month – tracked just south of Nova Scotia spreading snow, ice pellets, freezing rain and rain. Driving conditions were so treacherous in PEI and Nova Scotia that authorities pulled snowplows from all secondary roads. In New Brunswick, winds of 75 km/h whipped 30 cm of snow into huge drifts in Moncton, and in the tiny village of Notre-Dame the roof of a community centre suddenly collapsed. Buses were again pulled off roads in several cities and inter-city bus travel was suspended. Officials closed schools, universities and municipal offices early in the day.

Moncton Buried in Snow

Moncton set a new record for the most snow on the ground in February. On the mornings of February 15 and 16, 120 cm of snow covered the ground at the Greater Moncton International Airport – 1 cm more than the previous record for snow on the ground set in 1992. By the end of the month, total winter snowfall accumulation amounted to 327 cm of snow. The staying power of the snow was very unusual owing to colder-than-normal temperatures and the scarcity of rain, with only two days in February experiencing rainfall for a monthly total of 10 mm.

Pre-Halloween Storm Scares Atlantic Canada

Nicknamed Snoctober by the American media because of early record-breaking snowfall in New York City and parts of New England, the major fall storm also haunted the Maritimes with high winds, heavy rain and snow. Howling winds of 100 km/h caused pounding surf and powerful wind gusts along the coast. About 35,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were left without electricity. All told, the Maritimes got either soaked or buried, with up to 60 mm of rain in Nova Scotia and 15 to 20 cm of snow in parts of western and northern New Brunswick. The pre-wintry storm also made its way across Newfoundland, blanketing communities from Channel-Port aux Basques through to Clarenville in 15 to 25 cm of snow. Gander also got 22 cm of the white stuff, but in St. John’s it was only rain.

Record Wet October in Halifax

Halifax recorded a phenomenal amount of rain in October. Although typically the wettest month on average for the city, this year it was ridiculously wet – some 336 mm (260 per cent of normal) or 85 mm more than the previous wettest October in 2005. Only one other month has ever matched October’s wettest and that was August 1971, when Hurricane Beth brought most of the monthly rainfall of 387 mm. This year, there were early indications of a super-soaked month when nearly 140 mm of rain fell during the first five days of October. And just after mid-month a whopping 104 mm fell on October 20, the second wettest day ever recorded at the Halifax airport.

Winter’s First Big Storm

On November 23, a low-pressure system south of the Great Lakes tracked south of Nova Scotia and began dumping heavy wet snow across the Maritimes. Snows were the heaviest in northern Nova Scotia with 39 cm at Wolfville and 35 cm at Greenwood. Halifax Stanfield International Airport received 34 cm of snow – the snowiest November day on record. Students rejoiced at the announcement of school closures, while drivers cursed as dozens of cars began sliding and colliding. The fast-moving storm continued northeastward, passing south of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula on November 24. It dumped heavy snows in eastern and southern Newfoundland that – like Halifax – resulted in school closings and hazardous driving conditions. And in St. John’s, a record single-day November snowfall total of 25 cm was set.

Atlantic Weather Bomb

On December 8, a very intense storm tracked from Cape Cod through the Bay of Fundy into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  A day later it moved across southeastern Labrador.  The “weather bomb”– a rapidly deepening and intensifying storm with a central pressure that dropped at least 2.4 kPa in 24 hours – featured heavy snows in northern New Brunswick (25 cm) and Labrador (44 cm), pounding rains (70 mm) in Nova Scotia and a messy mixture of weather in between.  Winds exceeded 100 km/h in all four Atlantic provinces and included some hurricane-force gusts.  Top wind speed occurred at Englee, Newfoundland on the Northern Peninsula at 159 km/h. Power outages were widespread and affected several thousand customers. Schools and transportation services closed down. Stores also shut down amidst flying debris.

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