Canada's top ten weather stories of 1999

The end of the 1990s will be remembered for its huge weather disasters - most notably flooding in the Saguenay (1996) and Red River (1997), and our worst ice storm in history (1998).  But, contrary to some dire predictions for our final year of both the century and millennium, 1999 was relatively tame.

While property damage from weather extremes cost Canadians millions of dollars in 1999, the price tag was far less than we've seen in recent years. And other weather-related stories like the demise of Wiarton Willie, El Niño's replacement with its twin La Niña, Calgary's July snow, the absence of icebergs, floods and fires, a new one-day snowfall record and some first-ever summer snow-skiing near Vancouver were less extreme than other recent year's top weather stories. In a way, weather spared us its misery by taking it a little easier in 1999.

The following top ten weather stories for 1999 are ranked by considering the number of people and the extent of area affected by the weather, and the economic impact of the event.

Top ten weather stories for 1999

  1. Toronto's Snowstorm of the Century
  2. Another Hot Hot Hot Year
  3. B.C. gets Wet and Windy - But Where's the Flooding?
  4. Sloppy Spring Slows Prairies' Seeding
  5. Record-Low Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin Water Levels
  6. Atlantic Canada: Another Drought and Plenty of Hurricanes
  7. A Summer of Discontent in the West... Content in the East
  8. New Year's Avalanche Kills Nine in Quebec
  9. Weather-Related Highway Disasters
  10. Storm-Quiet Summer

Runner-up stories for 1999

  • A weak tornado, a rarity at any time in Nova Scotia, touched down on August 18 in Pugwash, tearing the dining room off a café and carrying it across a parking lot, leaving behind the kitchen with a dazed cook and her manager.
  • On November 1, following a record-breaking warm day on the Prairies, an Alberta clipper storm blew into southern Manitoba packing the strongest sustained speeds ever in November - 87 km/h.
  • The volunteer climate station at Tahtsa Lake West, about 120 km south-southeast of Terrace, B.C. broke the Canadian record for the greatest one-day snowfall: 145 cm on February 11.  The world record for one day is 193 cm at Silver Lake, Colorado.
  • Going into the second week of March, Moncton - Canada's snowiest major city - had a meager (for the city) 117 cm of snow.  During that week, the venerable snow capital got another 116 cm with 65 cm of that falling on  March 7, a new record for a one-day snowfall.
  • When it came to the weather, organizers in Winnipeg couldn't have picked a better 17 days to host the Pan-Am Games between July 23 and August 8. Only 21 mm of rain fell in three weeks, with most of it at night. When the temperature got up to 32.5°C on July 29, several spectators fainted and many more had to be treated for heat exhaustion.
  • In Wiarton, Ontario on February 3 hundreds of mourners filed by a tiny pine coffin holding a stuffed groundhog of the likeness of Wiarton Willie.  Groundhog Willie had passed away some time during the fall or winter.  Faxes of condolence came in from around the world, and there were almost a million hits on Willie's web site.  On news of Willie's death, children everywhere burst into tears, and some grieving Members of Parliament suggested a state funeral.
  • Due to warmer waters and prevailing winds off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, no iceberg made it south of St. John's this year, only the second time in 85 years since the titanic disaster. Last year there were close to 1,000 icebergs south of St. John's.
  • In July, up to 65 cm of snow fell in the high mountain country between Lake Louise and Jasper at Saskatchewan Crossing.  The region received so much snow that the RCMP closed the Icefield Parkway.  Calgary reported several hours of mixed rain and snow in July.  On the coldest day, the temperature was 2.7°C and winds were around 40 km/h (with gusts to 54 km/h) producing a wind chill of -14°C and 1,150 W/m2.
  • The forest fire season across Canada was one of the quietest on record.  A rainy fall followed by a cool wet spring out west and in northern Ontario helped limit fires.  In total, there were about 1,500 fewer fires this year compared to last year, but more significantly, only 50% of the total area normally consumed was set ablaze by wildfires in 1999.
  • Red Deer, Alberta received 273.4 mm of precipitation from July 1 to July 15, surpassing the previous July total record of 189.5 mm set in 1986.
  • Vancouver is on course for setting a new record for the number of wet days in one year.  Through the end of November, Vancouver had 173 days with precipitation.  Normal is 164 for the year and the record is 192, set in 1981.  With much of December stormy and wet, odds are hight that the city will break the record in 1999.



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