Regional highlights for 2009
Whiteout Welcome to the New Year
Across the Maritime provinces, an intense winter storm bringing heavy snow and blustery winds heralded the New Year. The blizzard caused lengthy power outages, disrupted highway travel and grounded flights. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island received the most snow – up to 60 cm – causing their respective Lieutenant Governors to cancel New Year's levees. Also of note, the Confederation Bridge was temporarily closed to high-sided vehicles and the Canso Causeway, linking Cape Breton with mainland Nova Scotia, closed for several hours owing to a storm surge and severe whiteout.
Winter Storm Blasts Saint John and St. John's
First, 18 cm of snow hit Saint John, New Brunswick on January 18. The next day, 13 mm of rain and freezing rain fell through temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, turning roads and sidewalks into skating rinks. School boards cancelled classes, several meetings and services such as Meals on Wheels were cancelled and operations at Saint John Airport grounded to a near halt as crews struggled to keep the tarmac free of ice.
A month later, on February 18, St. John’s, Newfoundland was like a ghost town after a wintry blast that blew in the day before from North Carolina and exploded over the Grand Banks-Avalon Peninsula with heavy snow, strong winds and blowing snow. Most of the city never showed up for work or school the next morning. The Newfoundland-Labrador capital got about 22 cm of snow and 2 mm of rain, made worse by high winds gusting over 100 km/h, which caused whiteout conditions along stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway. Dozens of flights were cancelled at St. John's International Airport and Metrobus sent buses out only in the late afternoon. Elsewhere, Bonavista got the most snow – 41.2 cm and some of the strongest gusts over 100 km/h, although Sagona Island felt winds of 130 km/h.
Worst Storm of the Winter and Decade Targets Saint John, New Brunswick
On February 22-23, a winter storm intensified over the Gulf of Maine and tracked across the Bay of Fundy. Meteorologists classified the system a “mega weather bomb”. Strong northeasterly winds gusting to 80 km/h created whiteout conditions. Among the snowiest places were: Bathurst 55 cm; Fredericton 48 cm; Miramichi 36 cm and Saint John 37 cm. Peak wind gusts reached 130 km/h. The winter storm was one of the worst in more than a generation. It wreaked havoc across New Brunswick, causing power outages and treacherous road conditions and forcing schools, businesses and municipal buildings to shut their doors. A storm surge hit some coastal areas with water levels 80-100 cm above normal. In Saint John, a metre-high wall of blowing snow prompted city plows to accompany fire trucks and ambulances on their emergency calls. In Prince Edward Island, the winter storm was brief but intense – enough to force plows off the roads in zero visibility. In Liverpool and Amherst, Nova Scotia snowdrifts lay about a metre high across some driveways.
Ice Jams Flood Trailer Parks
Following some very warm days at the end of February, officials in Nova Scotia evacuated dozens of residents from trailer parks after ice-clogged rivers flooded near Truro and Stellarton. The East River rose 4 m high and was a record five times wider than usual. In one park, water was chest-high in places. Pieces of equipment, building materials, unoccupied kennels and other debris bobbed in the waters. Ice cakes a metre thick floated about, rumbling and crushing everything along riverside properties.
March ... In Like a Lion and Out Like a Lion
March began with an intense winter storm tracking across the Maritimes that dropped a variety of precipitation: snow over northern New Brunswick; a messy mix of ice pellets and freezing rain over central and southern parts of the province; and freezing rain and straight rain in Nova Scotia. Halifax recorded 52 mm of rain and freezing rain. At Saint John, New Brunswick, residents had to deal with 15 mm of freezing rain just seven days after a major blizzard set a snowfall record. Wildlife experts feared deer mortality would be high this winter.
March also ended on a blustery note. A powerful spring storm dumped upwards of 25 cm of heavy, wet snow across eastern New Brunswick and in Prince Edward Island, forcing school closures and knocking out power to thousands of customers. Moncton received 35 cm of snow, whereas Saint John and Fredericton got only rain. Charlottetown got 29 cm worth the white stuff. In Nova Scotia, apart from Sydney where 27 cm of snow fell, it was pretty much all rain but still lion-like. For example, Baccaro Point had nearly 70 mm of rain.
Record Hot April Day
April 28 was a record warm spring day across the Maritimes. In Nova Scotia, Kejimkujik at 31.5°C and Greenwood at 30.3°C registered their all-time highest temperature for April. Astonishingly, St. Stephen, New Brunswick had a high of 31.7°C, making it the hottest place in Canada that day and unofficially the warmest day ever in the province that early in the year. The next day the temperature dropped 13 degrees.
Record Wet Summer across Atlantic Canada
Across Atlantic Canada, June to August was the wettest summer since national records began 62 years ago. Precipitation totals were 42 per cent greater than normal and more than 5 per cent wetter than the previous wettest summer in 2006. Summer rainfall totals in Halifax, Nova Scotia exceeded 400 mm, which was about 36 per cent more than normal. Saint John, New Brunswick had its wettest July on record. The city got twice the normal amount of precipitation – close to 195 mm. At Moncton, New Brunswick, August was the wettest in the city’s history – 191.7 mm of rain – easily surpassing the all-time August rainfall record of 173.7 mm set in 1973. In addition, this summer was Moncton’s wettest ever, 450 mm of rain, eclipsing the previous record of 399.1 mm set in 1962. Sydney, Nova Scotia had its wettest June on record – 206.7 mm (normal 92.6 mm). In addition, Sydney and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island counted their wettest summer season on record. At Charlottetown, the total rainfall from June to August inclusive was 424 mm, compared to the previous summer record of 413 mm in 1951. At Sydney, the total June-to-August rainfall was 456 mm, compared to a normal total of 273 mm. In 2008, Sydney’s summer was also wet (406 mm), making the last two years the wettest back-to-back summers on record.
Winter Nor’easter in October
On October 14, a powerful nor’easter plowed into Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula and strengthened as it crossed the province. The storm resembled a late November/early December storm with its intensity. Rain eventually changed to snow with as much as 15 cm over the high terrain along the Bonavista Peninsula highway. Top rain and wind extremes included Bonavista with 66.9 mm and 133 km/h and St. John’s at 46.4 mm and 122 km/h.Off shore, at the site of the Sea Rose oil platform, the wind blew to 157 km/h. Back on shore, police urged drivers to just stay home amid reports of flying tree branches and assorted debris. Power outages were reported in several districts around St. John’s, keeping utility crews busy all night.
Wet Fall Follows Wet Summer
Yet another October storm pushed through New Brunswick on the last week of October, dropping more soaking rains and ensuring one of the wettest Octobers on record. Hydro utilities reported more than 6,000 customers without electricity in New Brunswick and about 2,000 in Nova Scotia before power was restored. Some Moncton residents had to face another sewer backup after high winds caused a lot of the leaves to fall, blocking catch basins.In Saint John, several streets and homes flooded after 116 mm of rain fell. Firefighters responded to more than 30 calls for flooded basements filled with more than a metre of sewer water. One store owner said she had never seen such flooding in 32 years. October rainfall in Saint John amounted to 245.4 mm, which was just 2 mm less than the record set in 1977.
From April 1 to October 31, Moncton was awash in a record whopping 924 mm of rain compared to the normal seven-month rainfall total of 667 mm. In total, there were nine days with big rainfalls (25 mm or more), with one involving 76 mm and another 62 mm; that compares with four soaking days on average. Fredericton had its second wettest October on record. Bragging rights went to Saint John – one of the rainiest cities in Canada this year. Its rainfall total from April to October amounted to 1,118.8 mm, which was almost 50 per cent more than it would normally receive and the second wettest such period on record.
Winter Storm after Winter Storm
A major winter disturbance along the American Eastern Seaboard reached the lower North Shore of Quebec around February 23. It remained nearly stationary, producing significant snowfall accumulations between 40 and 60 cm in the Gaspésie area. As well, powerful winds of 100 km/h blew snow into huge drifts. The snow dumping ensured that Gaspé would record one of its snowiest winters – the fourth snowiest in 42 years.
In south and central Quebec, spring was characterized by record low snowfall totals. For Montreal, Sherbrooke and Bagotville, spring snows were the least since records began in 1941, 1962 and 1942, respectively. At Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport only one-thirteenth of the normal quantity of snow (3.8 cm) fell between March and May, inclusive. The previous low mark was 11.5 cm in 1953. Ottawa-Gatineau recorded its second least spring snowfall with 7.6 cm (its observing program began in 1938). Even more spectacular, the National Capital Region’s February-to-May snowfall was the lowest on record – a grand total of 23 cm. Remarkable considering that during the first half of winter up to January 31, 203 cm or nearly 150 per cent of the normal snowfall accumulated.
Mighty May Wind
Winds gusting up to 100 km/h wreaked havoc across Quebec on May 14. The high winds also meant hazardous driving. An 18-wheeler was one of six tractor-trailers pushed over on its side near Beloeil. In Montreal, the transit authority decided not to run any buses in the reserved lane on the Champlain Bridge because traffic cones would blow around. Strong winds cut electricity to 70,000 people by downing hydro lines. Winds also inflicted significant property damage: in Ste-Julie, winds uprooted hundreds of trees and tossed a gazebo and trampoline left dangling from power lines; in Alma, fallen trees crossed power lines, igniting a brush fire; in the La Tuque region, winds blew shingles off a hotel roof and dropped a street light on a home; and in Baie-Saint-Paul, winds snapped hydro poles into two and tore away roofs.
Rainy Beginning to Vacations
During the week from June 28 to July 4, a quasi-stationary low-pressure system stalled over eastern Ontario and Quebec. Excessive rains of 140 mm damaged roads and bridges, and flooded basements. Moreover, the inclement weather spoiled vacations and forced the cancellation or delay of several events. The hardest hit areas were in Charlevoix, Mauricie and Parent. Flood waters filled 50 houses in Notre-Dame-des-Prairies on July 1, collapsed a street in Entrelacs when a stream overflowed and ruined the strawberry crop everywhere. The flow rate on several rivers exceeded historic records.
On July 11, a cluster of thunderstorm cells dumped 40 to 70 mm of rain on southwestern Quebec. The heaviest rains fell in Montérégie, Montreal and the Lower Laurentians. In Montreal, the strong winds associated with the thunderstorm broke trees and caused a brick wall to collapse. The rain backed up sewers and flooded basements and sections of road, even forcing drivers to temporarily abandon their vehicles.
As a cold front swept through the Lac Brome area of the Eastern Townships on August 11, a freak, short-lived but violent straight-line microburst occurred. Wind speeds ranged from 100 and 120 km/h – powerful enough to rip up trees, throw boats around like toys and batter anything not bolted down. Residents in Knowlton had to pick tree pieces from their swimming pools, while Hydro Québec crews worked to re-establish power.
Summer’s Only Heat Wave
After two months of abnormally cloudy, cool and rainy weather in southern Quebec, the summer’s only heat wave finally gripped the region between August 14 and 18. Montreal recorded torrid temperatures above 30°C for five days in a row. Despite being a welcome relief from the bleak June and July weather, the abnormal heat had numerous harmful effects: an increase in medical visits for respiratory injuries; asthma attacks; and heat stroke leading to at least one death. Conditions were aggravated by smog, and some days had humidex values between 40 and 45. Public health officials cautioned residents during the oppressive weather, advising them that the first heat wave of summer is the most significant because the body’s acclimatization is at its lowest.
Across southwestern Ontario, the end of the second week of February featured around-the-clock warmth, copious rains and gusty winds that induced significant mid-winter snow melting leading to sudden flooding in low-lying areas. Two factors added to the problem: the ground was frozen and couldn’t absorb the rain; and there was ice jamming on some rivers. In Perth County, flooding washed out many roads. In the low-lying areas of Wallaceburg, residents waded through water to reach their vehicles. In New Hamburg, police officers went door-to-door advising residents to stay away from the Nith River, where slippery banks, fog and fast water created dangerous conditions. The Thames River rose chest-high in some riverside basements in Chatham and overspilled its banks in several parks in London. The mid-winter flooding was attributed to a record wet November and December (in London precipitation totals were 80 per cent more than normal) along with a cold and snowy January and negligible melt. In less than one week, the deep snowcover declined from 40 cm to bare ground in the midst of near double-digit temperatures and the third rainiest (41.2 mm) February day in 70 years.
Obama Goes to Ottawa
On February 19, President Barack Obama left Washington, D.C., in a light rain and a temperature of 7°C. An hour later, Air Force One landed in Ottawa amid light snow and a temperature hovering around the freezing point. The crowd on Parliament Hill was small, owing to a cold -10 wind chill and snow. President Obama told the onlookers: “I’m looking forward to coming back to Canada, as soon as it warms up.”
No Snow in March
After enduring a particularly rough winter full of snow, slush and squalls, Hamilton was blessed with an entirely snow-free March and the least spring snowfall on record. The total March-to-May snowfall was 5.0 cm – all of it in April. The previous least snowy spring was in 1988 with 8.8 cm. In fact, there wasn’t a measurable amount of snow from February 23 to April 6 – 42 consecutive days from the middle to the end of winter. Also practically snow-free were London, Kitchener and Toronto with 1.8 cm, 2.2 cm and 0.6 cm respectively.
“Monsoon” Open at Glen Abbey
The first round of the Canadian Open golf championship in Oakville began on July 23 with a five-hour weather delay. Daily downpours plagued the entire tournament with unofficial four-day totals of 200 mm. Groundskeepers were slicing open sections of turf to let out water bubbling up beneath the grass. In total, more than 17 hours of delays and the equivalent of more than two full days of play were lost to weather stoppages. It marked the second consecutive year that rain turned Glen Abbey’s Canadian Open into a virtual swamp.
Toronto Tornado Scare
During a severe thunderstorm on August 4, forecasters issued a rare tornado warning for Toronto. While no twister occurred, the weather brought heavy rains, hail, lightning and winds in excess of 100 km/h. The storm battered and flooded the city, leading to travel chaos with shut-down GO stations, diverted buses and disrupted flights. The weather even delayed the Atlantic premiers from boarding their connecting flights to the Saskatchewan meeting of Canadian premiers and territorial leaders.
Finally a Taste of Summer
For weeks, Ontarians were bemoaning the absence of summer. Finally, on August 9, nature responded with a full suite of summer offerings. The day began with oppressive humidity and pounding thunderstorms across southern Ontario. In Kitchener, the temperature soared close to 30°C with a humidex value approaching 43. A severe line of storms darkened skies shortly before noon, sending people scrambling for cover as rain came down in sheets and lightning flashed every few seconds. Through Orangeville-Caledon-Barrie-Coldwater-Cookstown-Aurora, wind gusts peaked close to 100 km/h, downing several hydro poles, trees and flag poles. Storms left more than 40,000 Hydro One customers without power, while in Port Franks, north of Sarnia, lightning killed a woman hiding under a dinghy at a beach. Winds in Hamilton ripped the roof off of a house and the television antenna off another. Winds reached 96 km/h at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where there was a brief power outage, reports of hail and dozens of cancelled or delayed flights.
Tragic Lightning Strike in Brampton
In mid-afternoon on August 12, a small, weak thunderstorm whipped up quickly northwest of Toronto and sent a savage current that struck and killed a 5-year-old boy and injured his mother and another child. The weak system did not warrant a weather warning. As the storm cell moved over the nearby community of Brampton, it intensified slightly. Lightning left a metre-deep hole in a soccer field just in front of the goal posts and knocked six people off their feet.
Weather in Spells
After one of the wettest summers on record, Ontario residents finally got some decent weather in September with a sunny dry spell unmatched in more than 70 years. According to Environment Canada, there wasn’t a trace of rain in Toronto from August 31 to September 18. A similar dry period hasn’t happened since the fall of 1938, when Toronto enjoyed 26 days without a drop of precipitation – surprising because September usually has the most rainy days of any month. The dry spell was also sunny and warm, with 50 per cent more sunshine and temperatures about 3 degrees higher than normal. In Hamilton, the record dry September (22 days straight with no measurable rain) came on the heels of its second wettest summer on record – 410.2 mm compared to the average of 251 mm.
Snowless in Toronto
An unusually mild and storm-free November in Toronto featured not a single snowflake falling at a weather observing site. It was the first snow-free November recorded since 1937 at Pearson International Airport. Even more remarkable, downtown at Canada’s oldest weather station – where snowfall observing first began in 1847 – not even a trace of snow (less than 0.2 cm) fell, for the first time ever. It was a close call! Less than two hours after the close of November, a snow shower descended on Pearson Airport with winter’s first trace of the white stuff.
Classic Lake-effect Snows
On December 10, as residents of Ontario and Quebec shovelled out from the season’s first general snowfall, cold westerly winds set up across the relatively warm open waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. An intense snow squall locked into 30-km-wide bands stretching across Muskoka and Haliburton. The monster squall blew relentlessly for two days dumping between 50 and 125 cm of snow in locales to the lee of the lakes. Yet, just 20 km on either side of the streamers, snow flurries fell with little accumulation. Bursts of heavy snowfall and driving winds created zero visibility and forced officials in Hunstville and Bracebridge to call a snow emergency – the first one that long-time residents could remember in 40 years.
Wild wintry winds gusting up to 98 km/h at the end of January whipped across Alberta, knocking out power to more than 10,000 homes and downing trees in many communities. Grande Prairie even reported a rare winter thunderstorm when the weather front brought in a mixture of rain and snow. Bassano, about 100 km southeast of Calgary, reported a wind gust of 126 km/h and blowing snow that reduced visibility to near nil.
February Rain in Winnipeg
The last time it rained in February in Winnipeg was nine years ago. And only eight times in more than 100 years have significant rains occurred in that month. On February 9, between 10 and 15 mm of rain fell throughout the city with closer to 20 mm in Portage la Prairie. Brandon got 16 mm of rain, nearly twice the previous rainiest February. Winnipegexperienced its third rainiest February on record. Of interest, the average February rainfall in the century before 1998 was 0.5 mm, but in the past dozen years rainfall totals averaged 5.7 mm including the three rainiest Februarys in 136 years. Winter rains are not a good thing on the Prairies because inevitably freezing occurs at or near the surface. Two days of sporadic “sleeting” rains left an icy glaze across the eastern Prairies. Pedestrians shuffled gingerly along slick sidewalks. Slippery pavement forced the cancellation of trash collection, mail and newspaper delivery and resulted in a flurry of fender-benders. With an influx of twisted ankles and broken bones, hospitals faced a spate of admissions – six times the daily average – with mostly bruised and broken bones. On February 9 alone, 290 people limped into Winnipeg emergency rooms (the number usually seen in a week). Roofers worked overtime to deal with hundreds of frantic homeowners looking to have their roofs shovelled or ice dams dislodged. To make matters worse, fog blanketed much of the region reducing visibility to 100 metres. In some places, the fog even deposited a slick layer of ice on already ice-blackened highways. A worker in Portage la Prairie died after a metal roof at a vegetable warehouse collapsed under the added stress of sodden-snow and ice.
Prairie Spring Whitewashers
Spring was a day old when winter’s worse snowstorm dumped a record 25 cm of snow on Calgary, leading to multiple car crashes across the city. The heavy, wet snow also burst a bubble at a golf dome, causing about $900,000 in damages. The storm carried on through central Alberta into Edmonton and north to Fort McMurray, dumping between 10 and 20 cm of snow and freezing rain. A week later, another Prairie whitewasher slammed into Calgary blanketing the city with an additional 10 cm. Amounts southwest of the city were closer to 40 cm. In total, the city received 46.6 cm of snow in March – the third snowiest March in over 75 years of record.
The Prairies often receive their biggest dumps of snow in spring or early fall. For example, Edmonton has had seven snow events this year in which the daily total exceeded 25 cm. The majority of these huge dumps occurring in April and May. Likewise, in the past 125 years, Calgary has received most of its major snowfalls in excess of 20 cm in May. With plenty of cold spring air around, moist and often slow-moving Pacific storms clash with the Arctic air, sometimes burying communities in deep snow piles well after most residents thought winter was over.
Perhaps the cruelest weather occurred on the long weekend in May. Longtime Alberta residents couldn’t remember a “two-four” weekend with such crummy weather. Edmontonians woke up to a thick clump of 6 cm of snow. The last time the city received a measurable snowfall after May 19 was in 2002. Adding to the misery were record low maximum temperatures on May 18 and 19 – a chilly high of 3°C. Areas to the west near Hinton received 18 to 30 cm of snow. Mountain-bound campers decided to pack up and head home early. Flowers and shrubs wilted under wet snow as the temperature hovered around freezing. The lousy May weather extended eastward to Manitoba where campers were more inclined to fling snowballs than swat blackflies.
“Big Summer” Storm
A huge storm, rare for the summer, blew across much of southern Manitoba on June 26-27. The system packed wind gusts of 100 km/h and dropped over 100 mm of rain. The rain was so heavy in some parts of the Red River Valley that Manitoba issued a high-water watch for parts of the province. Buildings at Sagkeeng First Nation, located on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, sustained roof damage. The storm knocked out power and closed several golf courses. In Beausejour, a dozen homes had their basements flooded. Elsewhere, water inundated sections of road in Nopiming Provincial Park.
Storm Prevents Storm Warning
On July 4, a storm accompanying a tornado in central Alberta knocked out Alberta’s emergency public warning transmission to several local radio stations, preventing them from properly alerting the public of a tornado. North of Red Deer, the tornado knocked down large trees, tossed around patio furniture and ripped shingles off roofs. The hail was so intense it resembled a prairie white-out.
Damaging Manitoba Hailer
On August 14, powerful thunderstorms, spectacular lightning strikes and baseball-sized hail hammered a wide area of southern Manitoba from Winnipeg to Steinbach, sending people scrambling for shelter and car owners to their insurers. More than 1,100 motorists filed claims with Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) by the next morning; losses ranged between $50 and $75 million. The storm also knocked out power to about 4,000 homes.
Gushing End to Drought in Saskatchewan
In the middle of August, a slow-moving low-pressure system entered Saskatchewan, leaving behind welcome rains. The hamlet of Parry, about 90 km east of Assiniboia, recorded 147 mm of rain. In Saskatoon, 51.5 mm of rain fell on August 15 – the wettest August day in Saskatoon since 1945. Over three days, the city received 70.5 mm which is almost twice the normal August total.
Finally a Break for Hail Insurers
The Canadian Crop Hail Association reported that payouts to Prairie farmers for 2009 crop hail claims totalled just over $76 million – a dramatic reduction from the record $341 million paid in 2008. Industry-wide losses were 29 per cent of monies in premiums collected from clients. Payouts in Saskatchewan were a modern-time record low of $23.4 million, a tenth of the record high payouts in 2008. Even Alberta was experiencing a historically low level of hail claims until the hailer on the long weekend in August.
An unseasonably cold Arctic air mass engulfed the Prairies, creating the coldest Thanksgiving weekend in 50 years. It also brought the season’s first snow, creating slick and treacherous driving conditions with deadly consequences. Temperatures were unbelievably cold. Banff set a new record at -21.6°C. Less than three weeks after Calgary shattered a heat record and marked its hottest day of 2009, temperatures plummeted to a record low of -16.3°C, breaking the previous record of -13.3°C set in 1928. Temperatures in Waterton Lakes National Park fell to -24.5°C, dropping a full 14 degrees below the previous record. Snowfall totals ranged between 10 and 20 cm. The heaviest band of snow occurred to the lee of Lake Winnipeg, where up to 40 cm of snow fell, triggering numerous accidents and vehicle rollovers. Melting snow and freezing temperatures resulted in icy and dangerous driving conditions on highways, overpasses and bridges. The first winter storm is often the worst one with the number of crashes often 10 times the usual number. It seems even Canadians forget how to drive in such conditions.
Cold Arctic Outflow
In the middle of December, a 10-day deep freeze featuring record low temperatures and brutal wind chills gripped the Prairies. That November was snow-free, dry and record warm made the bout of frigid cold air out of the Northwest Territories that much more shocking and painful. Alberta and Saskatchewan broke records for electricity demand. Wait times for roadside assistance lasted 10 to 14 hours. Record minimum temperatures were recorded at several locations during the outflow but none more spectacular than the minimum temperatures at Edmonton on December 13. The temperature at the International Airport dipped to a unbelievable -46.1°C, some 30 degrees colder than normal, and the coldest temperature in the Alberta capital in 28 years. It was colder in Edmonton than anywhere else in North America and the second chilliest in the world, next to Siberia. The record cold combined with brisk northwesterly winds to produce a wind chill reading of -58 – cold enough to harden exposed flesh in less than 5 minutes. Other cold spots with new records were: Lloydminster -37.5°C; Kindersley -38.7°C; Coronation -37.9°C; and Grande Prairie -40.3°C.
On January 5, snow on the ground at Chilliwack measured 59 cm – the most since records started in 1879. Over the next three days, 116 mm of rain fell triggering huge mudslides, floods and avalanches. The city reported 12 road closures and at least 12 mudslides. Large mudslides blocked the Coquihalla Highway and several major routes out of Vancouver, including long stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway. Officials declared a state of emergency in Chilliwack when floods inundated 50 homes and washed away roads. The worst flooding and slides in half a century made roads impassable and killed numerous farm animals.
January 24 marked the end to 18 straight days of fog shrouding most of Vancouver – a result of an inversion of warm moist air trapping cold air at sea level. Owing to the Coast and Cascade Mountains and the lack of a marine air to mix things up, the stagnant air stayed put. It was the second-longest spell of fog on record for January, short of the record of 21 days set in January 1985. At times, visibility was less than 100 m.
Victoria registered its sunniest June on record. It began with three days of record-high temperatures at 30.4°, 31.3° and 30.9°C. At month’s end, there were 335 hours of sun, breaking the old record of 330.1 set in 2003. Typically, the month is full of June gloom with residents tending to wonder when summer will arrive. Not this year! While it wasn’t record-breaking in terms of warmth, June’s mean monthly temperature of 16.3°C ranked fourth highest. The month was also dry, with only 6 mm of rain falling – far below the average of 32 mm and the fourth driest on record.
Welcome August Rains
An upper low originating on the south British Columbia coast slowly crossed the southern interior on August 13-14, bringing with it a heavy band of precipitation that remained nearly stationary over the Okanagan area for an extended time. Several records for the rainiest August day were broken, as well as the all-time daily rainfall record at Kelowna Airport and Summerland. Storm total rainfall amounts included: Vernon 36.0 mm; Kelowna Airport 35.5 mm; Westbank 46.5 mm; Summerland 55.2 mm; and Penticton Airport 40.9 mm.
November Pineapple Expresses and Massive Flooding
Massive surges of warm, moist air from Hawaii, called the Pineapple Express, pummeled B.C. coastal and inland areas with relentless and extreme rainfalls during the last half of November. Areas around Squamish and the North Shore mountains got in excess of 300 mm over a 60- to72-hour period, bringing on flooding and landslides. Flood watches were issued for west and central Vancouver Island, Howe Sound (including the Squamish-Whistler-Pemberton corridor) and Vancouver’s North Shore. The brunt of the storm struck at night on November 15, whipping wind and driving rain across southern B.C., downing power lines and leaving thousands bailing in the dark. On Vancouver Island, the city of Courtenay declared a local state of emergency. At one point more than a dozen roads and bridges were closed with some evacuations necessary because of the flood threat. The parade of storms left about 30,000 people without power and may have contributed to two deaths, while heavy rain was suspected to have played a part in a rockslide near Lillooet and an avalanche near Pemberton.
In the final week of November, a combination of heavy rain, melting snow and high tides caused several rivers and creeks to spill their banks and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes in the Cowichan Valley. Many streets were flooded and homes inundated. Roads and schools were closed all over the Valley. One long-time resident said it was the worst flooding in almost 60 years. Despite all the rain in November, only one precipitation record was broken at Port Alberni where a humongous 817 mm of rain fell – well above the past record of 616 mm. The “Pineapple Express” weather systems tended to stall over the town, leaving it soaking. Vancouver was also drenched, but there were no records set.
Epic Start to the Snow Season
Skiers and snowboarders got an early start to winter across mountain resorts in British Columbia and Alberta. Whereas coastal B.C. experienced mild temperatures and soppy wet storms, “white gold” covered the slopes at Whistler, Grouse and the Cypress “bowl” near Vancouver. At Whistler-Blackcomb, home to the downhill ski events of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, November set a record with 560 cm of snow – almost four times the average monthly total the resort gets (148 cm). Cold temperatures also made the snow dense and perfect for sliding. Whistler opened November 14, nearly two weeks before the official opening date and the second earliest opening ever. Elsewhere, hundreds of enthusiasts enjoyed deep fresh powder in one of the earliest openings at several resorts: Kelowna (Big White), Kamloops (Sun Peaks), Vancouver Island (Mount Washington) and resorts in the Rockies.
Frozen May 2-4 Weekend…in the South
The Victoria Day long weekend in May was one of chilliest in Yellowknife’s weather history. On the Sunday morning, the city saw a record low of -9.6°C. On the same weekend, Aklavik in the Beaufort Delta reached temperatures as high as 18.3°C, leaving residents in the Territory wondering when summer would make its way south. Hardy Yellowknife campers toughed out the holiday weather, with one bemoaning his frozen beer that exploded overnight.
Another Nunavut Heat Wave
Near the end of July, a ridge of high pressure over Baffin Island brought sunny skies and record warm temperatures to parts of Baffin Island and nearby areas, including: Iqaluit 25.4°C; Pond Inlet 21.0°C; and Hall Beach 20.7°C. Iqaluit had three days in a row of record daily high temperatures, while Pond Inlet experienced four days.
Arctic Warming Trend
For the high Arctic Islands, summer temperatures were 1.8 degrees warmer than normal – making it the warmest summer season in 62 years of records dating back to 1948. Since 2000, temperatures at Iqaluit reached into the twenties in nine of ten years (2007 was the exception). In previous decades, days with temperatures at or above 20°C occurred in only three to seven of every 10 years. The year 2009 tied with 2008 for the longest continuous number of days (six days) when the high for the day was in the twenties.
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