Regional highlights for 2006

Table of Contents

Atlantic Canada

Storm-stayed in Labrador

For three days in January, a fierce blizzard described as the worst on record (since 1941) raged across Labrador. From Hopedale to Nain and Postville to Cartwright, up to 120 cm of snow made roads impassable and closed schools and businesses. Only essential personnel reported to work at the Goose Bay military base. The total amount of snowfall on day two amounted to 60.2 cm, just short of the one-day record of 71 cm. With powerful winds drifting and blowing snow, visibility was near zero for several hours. The RCMP rescued eight people missing for four days on a snowmobile trek from Happy Valley to Rigolet.

Ice Jam Threatens World-Famous Wooden Bridge

On January 18, a massive 6 km-long ice jam on the Saint John River in New Brunswick raised concern about the safety of the world's longest covered bridge - the 105-year-old wooden crossing at Hartland. Water levels rose by the day, threatening to lift the 373 metre-long bridge off its piers. The ice jam was the result of copious rains and mild temperatures that caused premature ice break-up. The gap between the top of the crushed ice and the floor of the century-old wooden bridge is normally 12 m, but was now only 2 m. Another heavy rainfall would be enough to raise the level and demolish the structure. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and the threat disappeared.

Thin Ice Drowns Seal Pups

At the end of January, the unseasonable mild winter left the Gulf of St. Lawrence devoid of ice. Pregnant harp seals depend on a stable ice platform to give birth and to nurse for 12 days. On February 1, when a major storm struck the Maritimes, three quarters of the baby seals born earlier on the beaches were sucked out to sea and perished. Officials said they hadn't seen so many seals onshore since the early 1980s when mild weather also hindered the formation of ice floes. Ice in 2006 in the southern Gulf was the lowest scientists had ever seen in the area.

Nor'easter Goes Digging

A nasty winter storm walloped the Maritimes on February 1, bringing paralyzing blizzards and a powerful storm surge to coastal areas. The snow buried roads, sidewalks and parking lots in drifts as high as 50 cm. It forced schools, businesses and offices to close, and suspended transportation in eastern sections of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia before continuing on to St. John's. At the Fortress of Louisbourg, NS the storm surge helped unearth two sections of a stone wall constructed around 1740.

Another Winter Blast on St. John's

On February 25-26, another winter storm forced residents in St. John's to dig for their cars amid neck-high snowdrifts. Up to 70 cm of snow in Eastern Newfoundland combined with strong winds to paralyze the region. The streets in the provincial capital were empty of traffic. Poor visibility in high wind gusts of 130 km/h and blowing snow made travel treacherous. Snow-clearing crews worked around the clock for the next three days. Snowplows could barely keep up. Most businesses, restaurants and shopping centres remained closed, as did Memorial University's St. John's campus. More than 60 flights were cancelled during the storm.

Sheila Brush Storm Arrives On Time

On March 27-28, a Sheila's Brush storm - a fierce spring snowstorm following St. Patrick's Day - arrived again this year, shutting down most of the Newfoundland capital for a day or more. She was a whopper of a spring storm, with 32 cm of snow and winds gusting to 80 km/h that caused the usual cancellations and closures. Adding to the misery was that the rest of Canada was enjoying a very mild day from coast to almost coast. Legend has it that Sheila is the last major snowfall of the year. This year's brush with Sheila was the last storm with less than 10 cm of snow falling afterwards.

Wet Easter Weekend

Over the Easter weekend, a major storm struck the Maritimes with gale-force winds and near-zero temperatures in a mix of rain and snow. The Confederation Bridge was closed to high-sided traffic. In Fredericton, power outages were extensive. For Cape Breton Island, heavy rain, high tides and strong winds inundated roads forcing schools to close. A total of 180 mm of rain fell on the Cape Breton Highlands on Easter Sunday and during the four days that followed.

New Brunswick's Tornadoes and Near-tornadoes

Environment Canada confirmed that two tornadoes struck northwestern New Brunswick on July 2. The storm near Glassville packed winds between 116 to 180 km/h - strong enough to topple trees like matchsticks and demolish several homes and buildings. In the Napadogan area, the twister felled huge tracts of trees and ripped down several barns. One woman reported she was lifted off the floor when the storm hit her house. On July 11, a strong wind event downed trees, damaged two homes and cut power to 300 residences in the Zealand area of New Brunswick. Environment Canada later confirmed that there was no evidence of storm rotation. Three days later, a possible small tornado struck the Cap-Pelé, NB area as part of a severe weather system. A tornado warning was issued prior to touchdown. Throughout the month of July, Fredericton witnessed a record number of thunderstorms; nearly triple the usual number of four storms. Finally, Environment Canada also confirmed that a tornado touched down in a thunderstorm cell sweeping across the Acadian Peninsula on August 15. Accompanying the storm were hail, intense lightning and powerful downburst winds. The tornado caused structural damage to a few properties and uprooted some trees.

Wet Summer Causes Problems on the Farm

A wet spring and June created problems for farmers in the Maritimes. Conditions looked ideal in early spring but in June the skies opened up to lots of rain. Many crops in Nova Scotia didn't get planted because farmers couldn't get machinery onto the fields. The wettest summer on record continuously interrupted field operations. Crops like turnips and lettuce rotted in standing water. On the other hand, highbush blueberry growers in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley reported that the year's crop might be record-breaking thanks to a mild winter, an early spring and lots of rain.

Taste of Summer in November

Driven from the American south and the Gulf of Mexico, strong southerly winds brought record warm temperatures into the Maritimes from November 8 to 17. Temperatures were running some 10 degrees warmer than normal. Day-time temperatures hovered in the mid to high-teens across most of the Maritimes, even hitting a balmy 20°C in Moncton and Miramichi. In northern Cape Breton, Ingonish Beach had summer-like temperatures of 23.2°C. The temperature at Cheticamp, NS soared to 22°C and, with humidity factored in, felt more like 27°C. Charlottetown was 18°C - a new record. Greenwood was record hot too at 21.1°C.


March of the Montreal Penguins

On January 18, Montrealers woke up to a treacherous mess of winter weather. Heavy rain on top of a layer of ice made streets and sidewalks impassable. Buses didn't run and pedestrians were forced on all fours to try and navigate sidewalks that resembled skating rinks. Montreal's emergency services received more than 550 calls by the afternoon, twice the calls on a regular day. Outside of Montreal, the worst hit areas were the Laurentians and the Beauce south of Quebec City. Up to 65 mm of rain and freezing rain fell in some areas. Adding to the problems, strong winds between 80 and 100 km/h knocked down pedestrians and blew away salt, gravel, and de-icing materials. Close to 30,000 Hydro-Quebec customers lost electricity.

Spring Showers Bring May Flooding

Ten straight days of rain in May forced residents in eight water-drenched communities throughout the Monteregie region east of Montreal to evacuate because of flooding along the Yamaska and aux Brochets rivers. Cowansville was the worst hit when rising river and lake waters forced about 150 people to flee flooded homes on May 19-20. A further 50 to 100 people were forced from their homes in Bromont, Granby, St-Hilaire and Brigham.

Soggy May Delays Seeding

May featured a great many grey, cool and rainy days. In some cases, the monthly total precipitation exceeded twice the normal quantity. At Mirabel Airport, a new record of 205.2 mm of rain fell during the month (the normal being 79.7 mm). St-Hubert Airport also set a new record with 175.5 mm in 2006, 20 mm more than the previous record set in 1933. May 19 turned out to be the rainiest May day in 65 years at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport. Farmers feared losing crops seeded earlier or it being too late once the soggy ground dried out.

Smog Grounds Planes and Buses

On June 18, smog grounded small planes in Quebec and left asthma sufferers breathless. Temperatures in Montreal hit a high of 32°C (35 in Bagotville), and the humidex approached 40 - perfect conditions for concocting yellowish-brown smog. The smog blanketed the region from Montreal north to the Laurentians, east to Lanaudiere, and northwest to Lachute and St. Jerome. It also forced the cancellation of sightseeing tours in Montreal and the surrounding area.

Summer's Deadly Tempest

A freak microburst on the Canada Day weekend uprooted century-old trees in southwestern Quebec. One tree toppled on a woman killing her as she camped at St-Chrysostome. The winds destroyed more than 20 campsites.

Record Rains in Montreal - Two Years Running

Before the end of October, Montreal had recorded its rainiest year in 65 years of record, 1,073.4 mm and counting, surpassing the previous wet mark for 12 months, which was set only last year at 1,034.6 mm. One-day rainfall records were set in January, April and May. The average total for the years 1971 to 2000 is 760 mm, but this year by mid-December Montreal had 1,191.2 mm (about 57 per cent more than normal).


Memories of the Infamous Ice Storm

An extensive area of freezing rain moved across Southern Ontario on January 17-18. Several locations reported between 2 and 5 mm of ice accretion. Surfaces from Kitchener to Muskoka to Ottawa were coated with glaze for up to 8 hours. Untreated icy surfaces resulted in a plethora of traffic accidents and nasty slips and falls. Many hydro customers lost power as freezing rain and wet, heavy snow combined with high winds to take down power lines.

Non-Stop Snow

On February 5-6, an intense, long-lived snowsquall howled on for 48 hours across Southwestern Ontario. The storm closed highways, toppled trees and hydro poles and left thousands of hydro customers without power. In Listowel, power went out around 24 times in 24 hours. Many residents without power had to miss watching the Super Bowl. Hardest hit was an area within a 100-kilometres radius of Owen Sound, where police reported numerous road accidents, closed schools and cancelled bus service. More than 60 cm of snow fell in some areas. The weather shut down rural areas and small towns for days. Old-timers couldn't remember a storm like it.

Early Bout of Smog

On March 29, only a week into spring, most of southern Ontario from Windsor to North Bay and east to the Ottawa Valley was shrouded in a pall of summer-style smog. Warm weather and southwesterly winds were largely to blame for the early smog episode.

Leaving Town - Again!

On April 23, nearly 900 residents of Kashechewan in Northern Ontario faced their third evacuation in less than a year. The spring thaw of area rivers flooded homes, and residents were without tap water when ice debris snapped a valve in the reserve's water treatment plant causing sewage to back up into the system. Further, fog and freezing rain prevented mercy planes from landing at the community's airstrip.

Wiarton Willie's Last Call

On July 11, Wiarton Willie - one of Canada's best-known weather forecasters, and arguably the world's second most famous weather prognosticating groundhog - passed away at the ripe old age of about eight years. The albino groundhog, which had been ill for more than a month, died in his sleep. In February 2006, Willie marked Wiarton's 50th anniversary of groundhog forecasting. What turned out to be Willie's last prediction was spectacularly wrong. He pronounced an imminent end to winter but within days the remarkably mild season had turned ferocious and February became the snowiest one on record for local Wiarton and surrounding area.

Deadly Lightning

Lightning struck a beach in Wasaga Provincial Park early in the afternoon on July 20, killing a 26-year-old woman and burning two others.

Hot Summer Nights In The City

Sweaty Ontario residents struggling to keep cool in sweltering temperatures broke power consumption records on August 1. Demand hit 27,005 megawatts at 5 p.m., beating the old record of 26,160 megawatts set last July. The maximum temperature at Toronto Pearson Airport was 36.6°C with a humidex of 45. At Buttonville Airport, north of Toronto, the mercury soared to 38°C. Records for the day were set at Windsor and Hamilton. Even more astounding, that night the temperature dropped to 26.3°C, setting an all-time nighttime heat record for the Toronto International Airport. Downtown Toronto's most sultry night was on July 5, 1999 at 26.4°C. The normal nighttime low for late summer is about nine degrees cooler.

Unusual Great Lakes Water Levels

Water levels in the Upper Great Lakes declined to near-record lows. In Georgian Bay and Lakes Huron and Michigan, water levels were as much as 45 cm below average - their lowest levels since the 1960s. Lake Superior was at its lowest since 1926. Yet, the lower Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) were at or slightly above normal levels. Possible reasons are that climate change has altered rainfall patterns in the upper reaches of the basin or that recent dredging has led to accelerated erosion allowing increased outflow into Lake Erie, or both.

Snow Only for London

London dug out following one of the worst snowstorms in history on December 7-8. More than 40 cm of snow blanketed the city in less than 24 hours in a classic lake-effect snow burst. Unofficial reports had in excess of 65 cm inside the city, yet in the outskirts much less snow fell. London registered its first "snow day" in 25 years and businesses also took the day off.

Prairie Provinces

Snowplow Drivers MIA

Prior to March, Edmonton had a measly 35 cm of snow, about 40 per cent of normal. On March 17-18, a big snowmaker dumped up to 30 cm on the city - a new record for any previous March day. Motorists faced icy roads and blowing snow. Towing companies were kept busy, but only 55 of 135 snowplow operators who registered with the city answered the call to clear the streets. The booming economy had lured away many of them, most likely to the prosperous oil fields. The snowfall was the season's biggest and was welcomed by farmers and gardeners who needed a good recharge of soil moisture.

Early Alberta Heat Wave

Record-breaking high temperatures occurred in Alberta around mid-May. At Calgary (30.9°C) and Medicine Hat (33.2°C) the records eclipsed those over the last 100 years. Records also fell in Pincher Creek, Jasper and Drumheller. The hot, sunny dry air mass added to a serious forest fire situation. With the busiest camping weekend of the year coming up, officials were nervous and contemplated bans on outdoor fires. Fortunately, the occurrence of light winds kept wildfires from spreading.

June Flooding All Over Again

Heavy rains drenched south and central Alberta around mid-June causing some roadway flooding and backed-up sewers, and triggering memories of last June's devastating flooding. Alberta Environment issued high-stream advisories for much of the Bow River, Oldman River and the South Saskatchewan River basins. At the Glenmore Dam, water flows went from 25 to 50 cubic metres per second, though well below the 500 cubic metres per second at the height of last year's flooding. On June 15, torrential rains up to 80 mm - or close to a month's worth of rain - fell in some parts of Edmonton, backing raw sewage into basements and flooding stores. The city had reports of 82 flooded basements, which paled by comparison to the 4,500 basements flooding in the historic deluge of July 2004.

Rare Power Failure in Calgary

In the last week of July, Alberta was in the grip of a record heat wave. Demands for electricity increased steadily mostly due to the higher use of air conditioning and irrigation systems. On July 24, utilities in major cities reduced electricity consumption through a series of 30-minute rotating power outages. However, when lightning struck a transmission line between British Columbia and Alberta, extensive power interruptions occurred across Calgary during the afternoon rush hour. Lost power shut down a portion of the city's light-rail transit system and turned off traffic signals. Major thoroughfares became parking lots and commuters were stuck downtown.

Raining Glass on Winnipeg

Howling October winds on Friday the 13th blew several windows out of a downtown Winnipeg hotel parkade and forced police to close several streets for fear more glass would rain down from other buildings onto pedestrians and vehicles. Across the city, winds tossed around tree branches, signs, garbage cans and recycling boxes. Meanwhile, Manitoba Water Stewardship issued a flood advisory for the south shore of the province's largest lakes when gale-force winds generated a one-metre rise in water levels.

Manitoba Twister

Shortly after supper on August 20, residents in southern Manitoba reported seeing toonie-sized hail, lots of lightning, gusting winds and rotating clouds. In the maelstrom, a tornado touched down near La Broquerie at about 7:15 p.m. destroying a single house. The pregnant occupant survived with only a few bruises and scratches. Her husband watched helplessly as the roof and walls of their house were lifted off the concrete foundation and belongings and debris were scattered more than 400 m. The twister also flattened several out-buildings, including a machine shop, grain bins and a tool shed.

Early Harvest and Surprisingly Good Yields

In April, the Canadian Wheat Board reported overall soil moisture in Western Canada was the best in 10 years. Further, a warm and relatively dry spring allowed farmers to begin planting earlier in order to take advantage of good growing conditions. Continued hot, dry weather fast-forwarded the growing season, heralding one of the earliest Manitoba harvests in recent memories. Farmers in the Red River Valley began swathing spring-seeded cereal crops before the end of July. Unfortunately, the excessively dry weather added crop stress which adversely affected yields. Cumulative rainfall since May 15 exceeded the long-term average in only 2 of 36 communities sampled in Manitoba. Hot, dry weather also pushed up harvest dates in Saskatchewan such that the harvest was almost completed in most areas by September 10. Surprisingly, despite a year of high heat and scanty rainfall, cereal crops had above-average yields - higher than forecasted a month earlier and better than the past two years. Yields were also helped along by fewer pests and an absence of disease.

British Columbia

With Every Storm Comes Power Outages

On February 4, a vigorous storm packing winds of 60 to 100 km/h tore through southwestern BC. The storm closed bridges, stalled ferries and flooded entire neighbourhoods in South Delta. The combination of high tides and vicious winds left yards under water. The mayor declared a state of emergency and some locals described it as the worst storm in 50 years. In addition to the flooding in Delta, the storm created problems in other parts of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, felling trees and damaging power lines. BC Hydro reported that more than 80,000 homes across BC's southwest corner lost power.

BC Ferry Goes Under

Early on March 22, the Queen of the North ferry sank in Wright Sound. It was the first BC ferry ever to sink. The ship was going full speed when its bottom hit rocks. Two passengers likely perished in the accident. The weather conditions were not unusual or extreme at the time of the accident, but the next day high winds hampered cleanup of the oil spill. The mess covered a large area and the winds made full containment impossible. Salvage crews eventually got the weather window they needed to recover the diesel fuel.

Spring Flooding in the Kootenays

In the last half of May, unseasonably warm weather in excess of 35°C prevailed across the BC interior rapidly melting deep snowpacks in the West Kootenay region. Officials issued a flood watch for much of the southern interior covering the Kootenays, the Okanagan, Columbia and the South Thompson regions when water levels reached historic flood levels. Dozens of people left their homes as armies of volunteers filled a quarter million sandbags to stem rising rivers.

Smog in Beautiful British Columbia

At the end of June, the air quality in Kelowna was the worst in at least two years. A strong upper-level temperature inversion combined with the week's heat to push Kelowna's air-quality index into the "poor" zone. With little wind and continuing high temperatures approaching 40°C, officials issued air-quality advisories for most of the Fraser Valley. People with asthma and other respiratory conditions were advised to stay indoors. The Greater Vancouver regional district also issued its first air quality warning of the year.

Triple Hail Days

In the first week of July, three thunderstorms on consecutive days in the Okanagan pelted orchards with pea-sized hail and torrential rains. The weather laid waste to much of the fruit crop, described by locals as one of the worst storms in the past 20 years. More than 600 Okanagan growers filed storm losses.

Torrential Rains Even For the Wet Coast

Somewhat of a meteorological oddity, a late October extratropical cyclone persisted in the northern Pacific and drifted over anomalously warm waters before developing a clear eye and eyewall. The system dissipated in early November but not before bringing very heavy rains to portions of Vancouver Island. An automatic weather station on Howe Sound just north of Vancouver recorded two consecutive hours of phenomenal rainfall rates above 23 mm/hour during landfall.

The North

Too Hot for Cold Testing

Early February temperatures at Iqaluit average below -30°C, perfect for cold-weather testing. This year, about 50 engineers arrived with the A380 airbus from France to cold soak the plane in sub-freezing temperatures. However, like much of Canada, Nunavut was experiencing relatively balmy temperatures with daytime highs ten degrees or more warmer than normal.

Rescuing the Mushers

Mushers on the 1,600-km Yukon Quest race from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse faced some of the harshest weather in the history of the famous race. Temperatures ranged between 1°C and -25°C, and there were messy bouts of rain, freezing rain, snow and melting snow. On the evening of February 12, five Yukon Quest mushers became trapped on Eagle Summit on the Alaska side of the race. Blowing winds created monster snowdrifts and near zero-visibility in whiteouts on the 1,105-metre summit. Officials summoned USA Blackhawk helicopters from Alaska's Air National Guard to fly out six mushers and 88 dogs.

February Thaw - Not Nice

Temperatures reached a balmy 5.7°C at Iqaluit and 8.7°C at Pangnirtung on February 27, nearly 20 degrees above normal. The only spot in Canada warmer than that was on the Pacific Coast. Adding to the unusual weather, it rained in Iqaluit for only the third February since 1946. Kids got out their bikes and drivers faced potholes three months ahead of time. The warm weather also came with high winds, which in Pangnirtung reached 125 km/h, destroying a building and breaking windows. Most residents were not impressed, calling the warm weather "miserable" instead of "marvellous".

Record Late Snow in the Yukon

By mid-April, Whitehorse had received more snow in three days (23.2 cm) than it usually gets all April. The 16.6 cm that fell on Good Friday, April 14, was the highest one-day snowfall on record (records date to 1943). Residents of Annie Lake received a dumping of 50 cm. Most unusual was the high moisture content of the snow. Whitehorse usually gets light, dry, fluffy snow - 16 cm usually yields less than 6 mm of water. The water equivalent of the Good Friday snowfall was 15.8 mm.

Early Beginning to Winter

In Yellowknife, more than 70 cm of snow fell in the first two weeks of November. The city began adding crushed rocks to the salt on icy surfaces throughout the city. Municipal snow removal operations began on November 21 - the earliest on record. By the third week of the November, Yellowknife had already recorded its snowiest November ever. At the end of the month, 98.2 cm of snow had fallen, swallowing the previous monthly snowfall record of 61.0 cm for December 1974.

Temperatures in early November plunged to record-breaking thresholds across the Yukon. Many weather stations registered average temperatures between 10 and 12 degrees lower than normal. Dawson was the coldest place in the country with an incredible record-shattering average temperature of -28.4°C. At Whitehorse, the average was -20.7°C, beating the old record set in 1973. With the heaviest November snowfall in 12 years and several days with brutal cold and strong winds producing a –52°C wind chill, the weather in November was simply abysmal.

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