Top ten weather stories for 2009: story eight

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8. Hamilton’s Record Costly Gully-Washer

Map of Canada highlighting the region of Hamilton where a storm cell dumped copious amounts of rain

Photo of a lightning storm similar to what was experienced in Ontario. Photo: Jim Moyes © Environment Canada, 2005

On July 26, a huge storm cell stalled over the western end of Lake Ontario dumping copious amounts of rain. As lightning strikes shook the area, a growing deluge knocked out power and flooded streets. Hamilton was hard hit.Waves of thunderstorms pounded the city, leaving citizens with flooded basements and motorists stuck in traffic caused by road closures. The midday downpour turned Red Hill Creek near Stoney Creek into an angry brown torrent that forced the closure of nearby roads and highways. In intersections and parking garages, flood waters rose to the height of vehicle door handles. Water gushed into 7,000 basements and power was shut off to thousands of customers. While the Hamilton Airport observed only 28 mm of rain, radar estimates confirmed rainfall amounts in an unofficial gauge totaling 109 mm in two hours – worse than a 100-year storm and one of the most intense short-duration rainfalls on record in Canada. Conditions were made worse because the ground was super-saturated from storms two days earlier. Flooding turned streets into rivers and insurance losses totaled between $200 and $300 million.

In Toronto, parts of Lakeshore Boulevard near the Exhibition grounds were submerged. To the north, a pair of giant sinkholes swallowed part of Finch Avenue West – big enough to hold a fleet of cars and deep enough to cover a four-storey building. In places, water squirted through basement walls and gushed more than a metre high through manhole covers. In Oakville, the relentless rains played havoc with the Canadian Open Golf championship for the second year in a row.

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