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Canadian Tropical Cyclone Season Summary for 2003

Prepared by: Peter Bowyer

Five tropical cyclones entered the Canadian Hurricane Centre (CHC) Response Zone (RZ) in 2003: two moved inland, two entered Canadian waters, and one remained outside Canadian waters.

2003 Storm Tracks Image
2003 Storm Tracks Image

The year 2003 marked the fourth consecutive year for a landfalling tropical cyclone in Canada. Three of these were hurricanes. Eleven fatalities resulted from Hurricanes Fabian and Juan. Juan made landfall while Fabian remained offshore. Hurricane Juan was the worst hurricane to hit the population centre of Atlantic Canada in over 100 years, claiming more inland lives in Canada than any tropical cyclone since Daisy killed six in 1962. The CHC issued 113 bulletins during 2003.

Bulletin Summaries for 1997-2003
Bulletin Summaries2003200220012000199919981997
Hurricane Information Statements
Number of Storms Represented by these Bulletins


Danny (July 17–20)

Tropical Storm Danny was in the CHC RZ from 1500 UTC July 18 to 0500 UTC July 20 and was upgraded to a Category-1 hurricane during that time. Tropical storm force winds were not reported from Canadian waters. The CHC issued 13 bulletins.

Fabian (August 28–September 8)

Hurricane Fabian was in the CHC RZ from 0000UTC September 7 to 1200 UTC September 8. Fabian was a Category-1 hurricane of 130 km/h when it moved through the Southeastern Grand Banks marine area. No in situ data were obtained from Canadian waters during Fabian; however, the CHC waves-storm resonance model indicated that significant wave heights in excess of 20 m may have occurred just outside Canadian waters. Three lives were lost when the vessel, The Pacific Attitude, sank in the vicinity of the highest waves. The vessel was just outside Canadian waters when it signaled distress. The CHC issued 24 bulletins.

Isabel (September 6–19)

Isabel was being downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm as it entered the CHC RZ at 0400 UTC on September 19. Isabel subsequently entered the province of Ontario via Lake Erie at 1600 UTC on September 19. Winds of 55 km/h gusting to 73 km/h were reported in numerous locations in southern Ontario, along with rainfalls of 30–50 mm near and west of the storm track. Wave heights in western Lake Ontario reached near 4 m. Damage reports included numerous power outages, fallen trees, and some localized flooding. Isabel was the most intense media event for the CHC to date; this was due to a September 14 news story warning that conditions were “ripe” for Isabel to be a repeat of Hazel (1954). The CHC issued 22 bulletins.

Juan (September 25–29)

Hurricane Juan entered the CHC RZ at 0100 UTC on September28 as a Category-2 hurricane and remained at that strength as it moved through the West Scotian Slope, Lahave Bank, and Southwestern Shore marine areas. It remained at Category-2 strength when it made landfall in the province of Nova Scotia (N.S.), just west of Halifax, at 0310 UTC on September 29. Juan was still at hurricane strength when it entered the province of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) at 0625 UTC on September 29. Juan passed directly over the Confederation Bridge joining the provinces of P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

The strongest 1-minute sustained winds reported were 158 km/h at McNabs Island in Halifax Harbour. The highest peak gust reported was 232 km/h (at the 20-m level) from the vessel Earl Grey while at anchorage in the Bedford Basin at the head of the Halifax Harbour. Doppler radar from Gore, N.S., recorded highest winds of 213 km/h at 1 km above the ground. At landfall, hurricane force gusts extended 160 km east and 20 km west of the storm centre. As Juan exited Nova Scotia the hurricane force gusts extended only eastward out to 110 km. Rainfall with Juan was surprisingly low, with the highest official accumulation of 38 mm at Halifax International Airport. A subsequent tropical-like weather feature following 8–10 hours after Juan gave an additional 30‑40 mm. The two events combined to give localized flooding. The storm surge near and just east of Halifax was estimated at near 2 m, establishing a new record water level at Halifax. Buoy 44258 at the mouth of Halifax Harbour recorded a significant wave height (HSIG) of 9.0 m and a maximum wave height (HMAX) of 19.9 m. The Lahave Bank buoy 44142 measured HSIG of 12.2 m and HMAX of 26.0 m.

Juan is believed to be the most widely destructive tropical cyclone to hit Atlantic Canada in over a century, with an estimated loss of 100 million trees in Nova Scotia and 1 million trees in Halifax alone. The storm claimed eight lives: four directly (two inland and two marine) and another four in the aftermath. Power outages in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. left over 300 000 people without power for up to two weeks. Nearly all commercial activity ceased in the Halifax area for 2–5 days and schools were closed for a week. The landmark public park, “Point Pleasant Park,” had 90 percent of the mature growth destroyed or irreparably damaged. Dozens of marinas around Nova Scotia and P.E.I. were destroyed and dozens of small vessels capsized or sank. Public reports of “a wall of water” moving into the coast and up Halifax Harbour coincided with the arrival time of the highest surge and waves. Estimates of $100–150 million damage are conservative. The CHC issued 23 bulletins.

Kate (September 27–October 7)

Hurricane Kate was in the CHC Response Zone from 0100 UTC on October 7 to 0500 UTC on October 8. Kate entered the RZ as a Category-1 hurricane and was at tropical storm strength as it moved through the Southeastern and Northern Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Rainfall from Kate was difficult to determine because tropical cyclone moisture was feeding into a stalled frontal system over the province of Newfoundland. The 24-hour radar-derived storm total rainfalls, calibrated against surface reports, suggest upwards of 100 mm in some regions of southwestern Newfoundland from the combined effects of these two features. The CHC issued 22 bulletins.

Additional Information

Preemptive bulletins were also issued for Tropical Storm Bill (2), Tropical Storm Mindy (6), and Tropical Storm Odette (1), although these systems did not affect Canada. Coordination with the U.S. National Hurricane Center and affected Canadian Regional Weather Centres (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland) preceded the issuance of bulletins.

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