Runner-up stories and regional highlights for 2001

Table of Content

Atlantic Canada

Ice-Packed Atlantic Coast

Northeasterly winds pushed sea ice along Newfoundland's north coast, trapping  vessels for long periods and forcing delays to the opening of the lobster and other fisheries. Coast Guard icebreakers had to free several sailing vessels caught in the heavy floes. The seal hunt, however, was deemed a great success. 

The Arctic-Atlantic iceberg season was quiet and relatively short,  lasting from about April 1 to June 30. There were lots of icebergs, but persistent northeasterly winds ran many aground against the coastline of Labrador and Newfoundland. Very few bergs made it to the Grand Banks to threaten Hibernia or other offshore drilling operations, and none had to be  towed away. A much better season than 2000, when 41

Icebergs had to be towed away from the eastern Grand Banks.

Winter Storm After Storm

In the largest single storm in six years, Charlottetown received 43 cm of snow on January 6 & 7. Other parts of the Island got up to 70 cm. Northeast winds gusting to more than 70 km/h created huge drifts. The same storm dropped 53 cm of snow on Moncton. Another storm dumped a record 47.5 cm  on Halifax on January 21.

A mammoth storm  dropped 30 to 60 cm of snow on New Brunswick on February 6. On Prince Edward Island, the storm in conjunction with high tides, created a surge of water about 1 m high. 

On March 10 yet another storm dumped between 30 and 60 cm of snow on southern New Brunswick. Winds blowing between 60 and 70 km/hr whipped up monster drifts. On March 31, weary New Brunswickers woke up once more to another fresh layer between 20 and 30 cm. deep.

Too Much Rain …

A storm that stalled south of Nova Scotia on May 14 brought prolonged rains to the Maritimes. A sodden Halifax received 98.7 mm - the highest daily May rainfall since records began in 1871. Moncton was a close second with 98.2 mm, also a record.

On June 30, a brief but nasty thunderstorm with wind gusting up to 100 km/h struck Fredericton, New Brunswick, snapping tree trunks, downing power lines and cutting  electricity to 10,000 customers. The heavy rain and strong winds reduced visibility to only a metre in some areas. 

… Not Enough Rain

The Annapolis Valley and Cumberland County in Nova Scotia  received only about one third of their normal rainfall in July and August. For Greenwood, Nova Scotia it was the second driest summer in over 50 years of records, with only 112 mm of rain. Sydney, NS had only 45% of its normal rainfall in July and August.

It is hard to believe, but after a record snowy winter, St. John's  suffered moisture shortages in the summer. After a very dry five weeks in July and August, when less than one quarter of the normal rainfall occurred, the city was forced to issue watering bans. 


Winter Storms and Traffic Chaos

On February 10, a freezing-rain storm slammed into Southern Quebec contributing to traffic accidents that took the lives of six people. Strong winds gusting as high as 120 km/h left 300,000 Quebecers without power. 

Southern Quebec saw more traffic woes on March 22, as another winter storm dumped 20 to 50 cm. of snow. Several highways were closed.  In the Trois-Rivieres region the storm caused power failures, school closings and hundreds of traffic accidents. More than 40,000 Hydro-Quebec customers were blacked out, nearly half for almost 48 hours.

Lac Saint Jean - Quebec's Tornado Alley

On June 19, 2001, a weak tornado lasting a mere 30 seconds struck near Alma, in the Lac-Saint-Jean of Quebec. With winds exceeding 180 km/h,  the tornado completely destroyed two houses, a barn and a garage. The high winds also damaged several roofs and uprooted trees. Remarkably, no one was hurt. Three weeks later, a second funnel cloud in the same region ripped the roof off a house and knocked out power to several areas.


Great Lakes Rising

Water levels on the Great Lakes improved over 2001. Superior was at its lowest in 75 years last winter, but very heavy rainfall and runoff caused a dramatic rise in April. Huron was at its lowest in 35 years through the summer, but heavy rainfall in the early fall pushed it above last year's level. Erie's level was only a mere 20 cm below average, however it remained at its lowest in 35 years.

Commercial navigation was brought to a virtual stand-still for two days after a major storm over the Great Lakes on October 25. Sustained southwesterly winds of 75 to 100 km/h reduced the already low water levels by 1.5 m on the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers and the western end of Lake Erie, draining local marinas and causing over 50 ships to drop anchor or remain tied up at docks. Upbound traffic on the Welland Canal was also halted by the high winds.

Heat Alert

On June 29, Toronto City issued its first ever "heat alert", warning of a 65 to 90% chance of increased mortality due to heat. The program puts emergency services on watch to assist those most vulnerable to heat spells - the homeless, elderly and the infirm. The program was just in time for one of the hottest summers on record for the city. The airport had 24 days above 30°C. More significantly, however, were the hot nights - there were 14 nights when the temperature stayed above 20°C -- the normal is five per year.

Record high temperatures across Ontario also saw the summer become the highest electricity-use season ever, with the top three electricity-use days on record on July 24, August 7 and 8. 

Dry Spell in the South

In the middle of the growing season, from June 23 to August 15, parts of southwestern Ontario experienced their driest eight weeks on record. Some areas  received less than 15% of their normal rainfall during the 54 days. Over a stretch of 82 days, several communities in southern Ontario had no significant rainfall (10 mm or less). To add to their misery, during the same period, some localities had 21 days with temperatures above 30°C, compared to the normal summer total of seven.

During July, the Ottawa Valley recorded less than half its normal rainfall. At the Ottawa Airport, the monthly rainfall was the second lowest on record, only 10 mm above the lowest July amount ever recorded. Summer rains were spotty, meaning one area could be deluged, while next door, the ground remained parched. The Ottawa River, the second longest in Ontario, came within 11 cm of its lowest level in 50 years on August 14.

Ontario's Worst Storm

On July 31, winds of 100 km/h tore the roof off a community centre in the northwestern Ontario town of Fort Francis. The strong winds, which may have generated a tornado, ripped out hundreds of trees, downed power lines, and beached houseboats. More heavy rains and strong winds led to extensive flooding. Hundreds of cottagers and vacationers north of Rainy River were stranded without electricity.

The Prairie Provinces

Wacky weather in Calgary

Drivers between Red Deer and Calgary faced an unusual blackout on May 19, as the wind whipped topsoil off farmers' fields. The blinding wall of soil contributed to a 15-car pileup near Carstairs, about 70 km north of Calgary. Two hours later, conditions went from blackout to whiteout as a freak snowstorm pounded Calgary.

Summer Storms bring golf-ball hail, floods

On June 27, Neepawa, MB received more than 125 mm of rain in a six-hour period. The deluge created a flash flood emergency that forced the evacuation of 35 residents.

Golf-ball sized hail fell on Regina on July 14, during a severe, one-hour thunderstorm which packed wind gusts of 107 km/h and dumped 41 mm of rain. The downburst flooded underpasses, roadways and basements. 

A once-in-25-years storm in southern Manitoba on July 16 washed out roads, damaged crops and caused flash floods. In Winnipeg, where the northern part of the city received between 60 and 70 mm of rain, the deluge strained sewer systems and flooded streets and basements. The city fielded 150 emergency calls.

On July 28 and 29, a 15-hour storm dumped more than 100 mm of rain in the Edmonton-Leduc area. In Leduc more than 100 basements flooded and roads were under a metre of water. On July 28, at Edmonton Airport, 101.4 mm fell, drowning the previous record of 75.6 mm over 24 hours in 1990.

Bone-dry and dryer still…

For a 12 month period from September 2000 to August 2001, the area encompassing Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Kindersley, North Battleford, Saskatoon, and Yorkton had from half to two-thirds of its normal precipitation. For Kindersley and Saskatoon, it was their driest period on record. Kindersley set a record  for the least  rainfall ever recorded in August. Only 1.2 mm were recorded for the month, the driest since records  began for the site in 1913. Some areas of southern and central Saskatchewan have now not had a good annual soaking in three or four years.

Southern Alberta went through its driest 12-month period (September 2000 to August 2001) on record in the past 50 years. Lethbridge and Medicine Hat had virtually no rain in August 2001. During the growing season of April through August, the sites received about 100 mm of rain, less than half of normal, and a record low for the growing season.

Several stations in Southern Alberta experienced their driest two consecutive years on record. For example, at Taber, Alberta, the 24-month total precipitation was 436 mm, only 54% of the normal amount.

Late Season Scorcher

From September 24 to 25, a late season heat wave seared Alberta. Seven provincial records were smashed. Temperatures in Calgary reached 31.9°C, breaking the record of 31.1° in 1922. Lethbridge hit an unbelievable 35.7°C - more than five degrees higher than the previous record. The heat caused premature budding of spruce and pine trees.

British Columbia

Gobi Desert Sand Blasts BC

Dust clouds rolled across the lower Mainland of BC and into the interior on the Easter weekend. Incredibly, the fine particles were identified as sand from the Gobi Desert! Winds carried the dust cloud 15,000 km after it was whipped up by a storm in Mongolia and western China during the first week of April

Severe Storms

Heavy rains in late June led to several major landslides in the Peace River region. About a month later nearly 200 mm of rain fell in the Fraser-Fort George area of central and northeastern BC. Torrential downpours washed out roads and bridges and stranded campers. In Tumbler Ridge more than 35 tree planters had to evacuate their camp on July 19th when a creek at the edge of town rose suddenly. Flooding, landslides and debris flows continued over several weeks.

Bugs threaten pine forests

Unusual weather extremes hatched a bumper crop of bugs across Canada in 2001. Fewer wildfires and recent warm winters in British Columbia have enabled the black beetle to inflict enormous damage to the pine forests. More than 100 million trees or $4 billion worth of timber are at risk. Normally, beetle infestations are wiped out after a few weeks of -40°C temperatures but the last really cold winter in central BC was in 1982. 

The North

Storm Collapses World's Largest Culvert

The Alaska Highway was closed for two days after heavy rains south of Watson Lake, Yukon, on June 5 caused the collapse of a giant culvert. Installed in September 1998 at a cost of about $11 million, the culvert was heralded at the time as the largest in the world, spanning 23.3 m wide, 8.2 m high and 25 m long.

Heat Wave in Iqaluit

Not to be outdone by heat-suffering southerners, residents of Iqaluit endured some of the warmest temperatures ever in July. The Arctic heat wave forced a run on electric fans and ice cream. Unfortunately, residents were also gagging on smoke from massive trash fires at the city dump - the after-effects of a three month garbage strike. Rainfall patterns were unusual as well. In over 50 years of records, July was the third driest, with only 14.6 mm of rain, and August the second wettest, with 123.8 mm.

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