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Canada's top ten weather stories of 2013

10. Stormy Seas and Maritime Tragedy

Figure 10a. Map of Canada. Click for large map.

In a month of frequent winter storms across eastern North America, none was more tragic than the powerful storm that led to the drowning of five young fishermen off Nova Scotia on February 17. The deadly storm was the third one in two weeks but not the largest or most powerful. Still, it had the intensity of a Category 1 to 2 hurricane. The low travelled northward up the United States eastern seaboard and became rejuvenated over the relatively warm waters of the Gulf of Maine. For Nova Scotia, the storm featured a mixed bag of wet snow, rain and freezing rain making it especially challenging for road crews scraping away the crunchy frozen slush. New Brunswick received only snow – 30 cm in the southeast.

Ship navigating through turbulent waters

Everywhere along the coast, winds were gusty and strong, approaching 160 km/h in western Cape Breton Island and 180 km/h across southwestern Newfoundland and Labrador. Across the Maritimes, thousands of customers lost power and inter-city bus services were cancelled. Numerous flights in and out of Halifax and Saint John airports were delayed or cancelled. A host of community programs and services closed, including colleges, schools, daycares, public libraries and medical offices. Blood shortages reached critical lows as foul weather continued to close clinics and keep potential donors at home.

Fishing Ship surrounded by icy water

Turbulent seas along the Nova Scotia coast created treacherous conditions with 10 metre waves and high winds. Sadly, in the midst of hurricane force winds and zero visibility the Miss Ally from Woods Harbour and her five member crew of fishers went down in heavy seas. The five young halibut fishers lost their lives as conditions severely hampered massive search and rescue efforts.

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