When it comes to weather 2011 had it all: droughts, floods, fires and tornadoes, making it the second costliest year on record for weather catastrophes globally. Canada was not immune; here are Environment Canada's top 10 weather stories of the year.
1. Rising waters: Prairie flooding in 2011 featured the highest water levels in modern history across parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
2. Slave Lake burns: One-third of the homes and businesses in Slave Lake (about 400 structures) were burned to the ground as high winds whipped up a fire that began southeast of the town in May.
3. Richelieu flooding: Roads were damaged, parts of the shoreline were swept away, and thousands of hectares of farmland were submerged along the Richelieu River in the worst overland flooding in southern Quebec since Confederation.
4. Down on the farm: Weather that alternated from extremes of wet and dry kept farmers across the country guessing all year, resulting in record yields for some and delayed harvests and reduced crop quality for others.
5. Ontario’s wild winds: In less than two minutes in August, a tornado ripped through the picturesque community of Goderich, killing one person and injuring forty others. Only three days later, dark clouds and lightning rolled in and another three tornados occurred across Ontario. In July, a freak storm blew in to Ottawa, toppling a stage at the city’s BluesFest and injuring two people.
6. Storms brewing: Nineteen tropical storms formed in the Atlantic basin in 2011, well above the long-term average of 11. Only six became full-blown hurricanes, with three logged as major at Category 3 or higher: Irene, Katia and Ophelia.
7. Summer ups and downs: On the first day of summer, temperatures were on the rise from Saskatchewan to Quebec, blanketing millions of Canadians in warmth and sunshine. Here in Ontario, July was one of the driest in more than a decade with less than a tenth of the normal amount of rainfall. However, people on the west and east coasts endured cool temperatures, endless rain and unseasonably overcast or foggy skies.
8. On thin ice: According to Environment Canada and the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to its second-lowest extent on record in September 2011.
9. Snowmageddon: During the last week of January, a severe winter storm hammered Quebec, the Maritimes and the eastern U.S. Ontario largely escaped the storm’s bite, though blizzard conditions did take hold from Lake Huron to Niagara.
10. Wicked winds from the West: During the last week of November, some of the most powerful winds ever recorded there ripped across southern Alberta, including Calgary, inflicting millions of dollars in property damages.
For more on the list, visit Environment Canada.
According to leading experts and reports, Ontario will likely continue to face challenges such as flooding, more frequent and intense storms, shorter winter road seasons and other severe weather events as a result of climate change. That’s why Ontario has developed a plan to adapt to climate change.