Top ten weather stories for 2007: story three

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3. Pre-Winter Weather Mayhem from Coast to Coast

Before winter officially got underway on December 22, winter weather struck with vengeance right across the country. On the first days of December, up to 50 centimetres of snow fell on parts of Vancouver Island followed by a warm soppy rain in excess of 100 mm. It was brutally cold across the Prairies with a -40°C wind chill and a massive storm from Colorado spread meteorological mayhem into Ontario and Quebec. In Atlantic Canada, a fierce winter storm was already underway, just ahead of the Colorado low that struck with a one-two wallop. For a time at the beginning of December, a white Christmas mantle covered Canada from coast to coast to coast.

Almost overnight on December 2, the Pacific coast swung wildly from one extreme to the other as warm tropical rains replaced a winter storm. Victoria and Vancouver avoided the big snow dump with only 12 cm, but the Vancouver Island community of Campbell River was buried under more than 50 cm of snow. The day after winter's first blast, a subtropical airmass from Hawaii -- dubbed the Pineapple Express -- ushered in warm air and drenching rains. With a forecast for 100 to 150 mm of rain in 24 hours, the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment issued a flood watch for Greater Vancouver, south and central Vancouver Island, Howe Sound and the lower Fraser Valley. In the interior, flood and avalanche watches were issued for upper reaches of the Fraser River where more than 200 mm of rain soaked the snowpack. The heavy snow-rain deluge kept students home from school, closed roads, cut power and created deadly driving conditions. Rising waters and avalanches isolated several interior communities for days.

On December 3, Ontario struggled through its first big winter storm that featured an ugly mixture of snow, freezing rain, ice pellets and rain. London got 60 cm of snow from the initial storm and from almost continuous lake-effect squalls over the next couple of days. Thousands of students stayed home for two days as icy roads and blowing snow made travel treacherous, especially north of London. Almost 200 drivers in the London area showed up at a local collision reporting centre on December 3, setting a record for the worst day ever for crashes. In Ottawa, the storm dropped 24 cm of snow in a 24-hour period. Montrealers dug out of more than 35 cm of snow, which was a record for December 3. Whipped by strong northeasterly winds up to 50 km/h, road surfaces in southern Quebec became treacherous and visibility was at times minimal.

The storm then moved on to Atlantic Canada, where residents were still recovering from a two-day blast to the region featuring snow and strong winds. During the initial storm, parts of northern mainland Nova Scotia and most of Cape Breton got 10 to 20 cm of snow and winds gusted to 90 km/h. When the second storm moved in from Ontario and Quebec, it focused its force and misery all over Atlantic Canada. In New Brunswick, an additional 40 cm of snow fell onto what had already fallen a day before in blustery 70 km/h winds. Moncton ground to a halt with a combined two-day snowfall of 55 cm swirled in wind gusts peaking at 83 km/h. A storm-surge along the coast from Escuminac to Cape Tormentine coincided with the high tide, adding an extra 1.3 to 1.5 metres to the depth of the water. Halifax and Charlottetown were hit with 20 cm of snow fanned by winds of 90 km/h. Repair costs to electricity lines and towers in Prince Edward Island exceeded $1.5 million and were expected to take months to complete. Maritime Electric said it was by far the worst storm the utility has seen since the 1970s, if not the worst ever.

And it only got worse in Newfoundland and Labrador. Winds gusting up to 124 km/h created blizzard-like conditions along the Bonavista Peninsula and the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula. As much as 25 cm of snow blanketed the ground on December 2. The entire downtown of St. John's, Newfoundland was plunged into darkness. In eastern Newfoundland, snow and wind from a weekend storm toppled about two kilometres of transmission lines along with seven two-pole towers. The fact these main lines were in a remote and difficult terrain hampered repair efforts. Newfoundland Power officials said the storm - with its heavy, wet snow, thick ice and high winds - was one of the most damaging in the past 10 years. Close to 10,000 customers on the Bonavista Peninsula were without power for up to a week. In terms of snowfall, the largest on the Island was in Terra Nova National Park, where it was estimated close to 65 cm fell.

Then, a week before the first day of winter, winter-weary Easterners were digging out from another mammoth storm…

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