Top ten weather stories for 2007: story six

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6. Big Bad Noel but No Juan

Fifteen named storms, including six hurricanes, occurred in the North Atlantic during the 2007 hurricane season. Tropical storms numbered five more than usual, although their accumulated energy was well below normal because many of the storms were either weak or short-lived. While there were fewer hurricanes than anticipated, Dean and Felix reached Category 5 status and were big killers along with Noel.

Hurricane Noel was the most powerful storm to hit Atlantic Canada in 2007. Until its arrival in early November, the tropical storm season in Eastern Canada was looking like one of the quietest in 20 years. The only other tropical visitor was Chantal. It slammed into eastern Newfoundland and Labrador on July 31 causing several millions of dollars in damages. At Argentia, almost 200 mm of rain fell in 12 hours -- double the historic rainfall amount. Flooding rains washed out bridges and submerged roads, basements and parking lots. In St. John's, the storm forced the cancellation of the annual Royal St. John's Regatta, one of the oldest continuous sporting events in North America.

Noel was the second last of the year's tropical storms and also the deadliest. It wreaked havoc on the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas and in doing so killed more than 147 people before heading north. In Canadian waters, Noel was neither a hurricane nor a tropical storm but a huge, vigorous storm referred to by meteorologists as a post-tropical storm. Its centre moved into Canada near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, crossing southeastern New Brunswick, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and finally moving through central Labrador. Fortunately, the storm arrived during the low monthly tide cycle, minimizing the danger of tidal surges or flooding. Ocean-wave heights peaked at 14 metres on Georges Bank. Sustained winds exceeded 135 km/h. In the Wreckhouse area of southwestern Newfoundland -- one of the windiest places in the world -- local winds gusted as high as 180 km/h.

The sprawling system extended over a million square kilometres. It dumped 60 to 80 mm of rain through southern New Brunswick and western Nova Scotia, and as much as 130 mm in northern Cape Breton Island, generating some minor street flooding and filling basements. The storm brought heavier rains to Quebec's Gaspé -- 90 to 100 mm. Farther north, heavy snow in excess of 35 cm fell from Sept-Iles to Rimouski. In northern Labrador, about 20 cm of snow fell.

Noel was a nasty storm -- bigger than Hurricane Juan four years earlier, but much weaker -- causing a lot of damage and inconveniencing thousands of people, but sparing life and limb. Powerful winds took thousands of trees down, scattered fences and downed power lines across Atlantic Canada. At one point, almost 200,000 homes and businesses were without electricity. The greatest impact from Noel was the coastal damage done by huge powerful waves along the entire western half of Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast. Wind and wave action destroyed several beaches, hurled rocks and obliterated or severely damaged countless wharves, docks and fishing sheds. A mitigating factor was the storm's late arrival after most trees had lost their leaves. Still, Halifax's scenic Point Pleasant Park, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Juan, was hit again but with far less damage.

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