A historical look at Prairie weather

Let’s look at the wildest, weirdest and/or most disastrous weather in Prairie history

Each year Environment Canada puts out its top 10 weather stories and I like to go through them taking a more western focus. While 2015’s top stories are not quite out yet, I thought it might be interesting to go back over the last 115 years or so and look at some of the biggest weather stories to hit the Canadian Prairies, according to Environment Canada. I’m not going to try and list them in any particular order; I’ll leave that up to you. I’m simply going to go in chronological order from oldest to newest.

June 30, 1912. Canada’s deadliest tornado hits Regina, killing up to 40 people and injuring 300. A quarter of Regina’s population was left homeless after the storm.

June 22, 1922. Multiple tornadoes strike southern Manitoba killing five people and causing $2 million in damages.

July 5, 1937. Hottest day in Canadian history, when the temperature soared to 45 C at Yellow Grass, Sask., northwest of Weyburn.

Jan. 30 to Feb. 8, 1947. Massive 10-day blizzard hits the Prairies, burying towns and railways across all three provinces.

Spring 1950. Red River flood in southern Manitoba, described at the time as the greatest flood disaster in Canadian history. Damage costs topped $500 million. It was this flood that prompted the development of the floodway around Winnipeg.

1961. Driest year on record across the Prairies, with many places only reporting 45 per cent of average precipitation.

Dec. 15, 1964. Southern Prairies hit by blizzard. Heavy snows, -30 C temperatures, and winds of 90 km/h brought this region to its knees.

March 4, 1966. Winnipeg’s storm of the century brought a one-day snowfall total of 35 cm along with winds in the 120 km/h range. Severe drifting closed down the city and much of southern Manitoba for days.

April 17-20 and April 27-29, 1967. Two snowstorms dropped upwards of 175 cm of snow on southern Alberta. The army was called in to assist in snow clearing along with the airlifting of food and fuel.

1972. The only year on record where all major reporting stations in Canada reported below-average temperatures.

July 31, 1987. One of Canada’s largest and most intense tornadoes struck Edmonton, killing 27 people and creating a swath of destruction 40 km long and one kilometre wide.

September 1987 to August 1988. $4-billion drought across the southern Prairies. In a drought that rivalled the 1930s, it is estimated that as many as 10 per cent of farmers and farm workers left agriculture due to the effects of the drought.

February 1988. The Winter Olympics struggle to deal with some of the warmest February temperatures ever recorded across southern Alberta.

Sept. 7, 1991. The most destructive hailstorm in Canadian history hits Calgary over the supper hour. Over a 30-minute period an intense thunderstorm dropped hailstones of up to 10 cm in diameter and caused upwards of $300 million in damages.

July 24, 1996. Hailstones the size of oranges hit both Calgary and Winnipeg, causing extensive damage to homes and vehicles.

April to May 1997. The Red River in Winnipeg peaks above 1950 flood levels. While damages across southern Manitoba reached about half a billion dollars, the floodway around Winnipeg was credited with saving the city.

1998. Hottest year in Canadian history, with a national temperature 2.4 C above the long-term average.

July 14, 2000. 12 people died and 140 were injured when a powerful tornado hit the Green Acres campground southeast of Red Deer, Alta.

May to August, 2000. Southern Alberta experienced the worst drought since 1918.

Spring 2003. Record late-spring snows hit much of Alberta with both Edmonton and Calgary, topping out at around 100 cm of spring snow.

July 11, 2004. 150 mm of rain fall on Edmonton in less than an hour, creating some of the worst overland flooding in that province’s history.

Aug. 20, 2004. Early frost hits southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, resulting in over a billion dollars in agricultural losses.

June and July 2005. Intense rainstorms create historic summer-level flooding across nearly all of southern and central Manitoba.

June 22, 2007. Canada’s first F5 tornado is reported near Elie, Man.

Summer 2007. Alberta experienced one of the hottest summers on record. Heat and humidity hit southern Manitoba, with Carman breaking the Canadian humidex record with a reading of 53 C on July 25.

July 12, 2010. Calgary records a 30-minute hailstorm that resulted in over $400 million in damages.

March 2012. Record heat hits Manitoba and Eastern Canada. All-time March records were broken across all of southern and central Manitoba. Overnight lows on a couple of nights were near the daytime recorded highs.

June 2013. The “super flood” hits southern Alberta. Late snowmelt and unusually heavy rains combined to bring record-breaking flooding. Costs from the flood exceeded $6 billion, making it Canada’s most expensive disaster.

Winter 2013-14. Coldest winter in over a century across much of the eastern Prairies.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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