Saskatchewan

Remembering Saskatchewan's 10 worst weather events

For Canada's 150th birthday, we decided to take a stroll through the history books, looking at Saskatchewan's infamous weather events.

For Canada 150, take a stroll through the province's infamous weather moments

If there is one thing Saskatchewanians love to hate, it's the weather — which is easy in a province known for weather extremes.

As we lead up to Canada's 150th birthday, we decided to take a stroll through the history books, looking at some of Saskatchewan's infamous weather events.

1. Regina tornado (June 30, 1912)

It was hot and muggy on June 30, 1912. Wascana Park was bustling with people soaking up the heat.

But what started as a beautiful summer day took a turn. Just before 5 p.m. CST, the clouds started to build with a dangerous green tinge.

Then, a strong cyclone touched down south of Regina. It travelled north, tearing through neighbourhoods north of Wascana Lake and the downtown. 

This tornado is ranked as the deadliest cyclone in Canadian history. Twenty-eight people lost their lives and hundreds were injured. Houses and businesses were flattened, leaving  $1.2 million in property damage and 2,500 people without homes.

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      2. Hottest temperature in Canada (July 5, 1937)

      Though southern Ontario is known for its hot summers, Saskatchewan has its own place in the record books.

      On July 5, 1937, the mercury rose to 45 C in both Yellow Grass and Midale, Sask., which is the hottest temperature officially recorded in Canada.

      Yellow Grass is 75 kilometres southeast of Regina. Midale is 150 kilometres southeast of Regina. 

      3. Kamsack cyclone (Aug. 9, 1944)

      On Aug. 9, 1944, when most eyes were on Europe, the skies opened up over Kamsack, Sask., northeast of Yorkton by the Manitoba border.

      A powerful tornado ripped through the small town, killing three people and injuring many others. The twister destroyed 400 houses,100 businesses and caused $2 million in damages.

      Veterans returning from overseas came home to a different battleground: helping with the community's rebuild. This led to the community's biggest building boom in its history.

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          4. Winter of 1947

          Saskatchewan is well-known for rough winters but many consider the winter of 1947 to be the worst. Storms began just after Christmas and continued on and off for weeks.

          On Jan. 30, 1947, a 10-day blizzard rolled through the south of the province, effectively shutting it down.

          Ronda Harrison shared this photo of a Saskatchewan blizzard in 1947 on CBC Saskatoon's Facebook page. (Ronda Harrison)

          The snow drifts blocked roads and rail lines from Calgary all the way to Winnipeg, some until spring. Only the tops of telephone poles were visible in some communities and transportation in the province ground to a halt. One farmer in Moose Jaw, Sask., had to cut a hole in the roof of his barn to feed his cows. 

          The blizzard has been dubbed the "Worst Storm in Canadian Railroad History" by Environment Canada.

          5. Prairie drought of 1988

          From too much snow to not enough precipitation, the summer of 1988 was marked by extreme drought conditions.

          By June, record hot temperatures in the 40 C range set up in Saskatchewan and many communities only saw half their average rainfall.

          Erosion of the dry soil was a problem and dust storms rolled across the parched prairies. The summer yielded a significant drop in crop production, with a loss of $1.8 billion in 1981 dollars.

          6. Saskatoon thunderstorm (July 4, 1996)

          On July 4, 1996, a powerful outbreak of thunderstorms led to numerous reported tornadoes and microbursts near Saskatoon, Maymont and Osler, Sask. 

          Winds in Saskatoon gusted between 120 and 140 km/h, causing damage to homes on the east side of the city and a drive-in theatre. 

          A recap of Saskatoon`s powerful thunderstorm in July 1996 1:40

          7. Vanguard storm (July 3, 2000)

          During a series of severe thunderstorms in the summer of 2000, the community of Vanguard, Sask., saw what Environment Canada called the most intense rain storm ever on the Prairies. 

          On July 3, 2000, around 375 millimetres of rain fell near the small community southeast of Swift Current, Sask., in an eight-hour period. That's more precipitation than the area typically sees in the entire year.

          The storm washed out homes and roads in the community.

          8. Saskatoon blizzard (Jan. 10, 2007)

          On Jan. 10, 2007, a powerful blizzard roared in central Saskatchewan.


          Saskatoon was effectively shut down, as 25 centimetres of snow piled up and winds gusted between 70 and 90 km/h. Snowdrifts blocked roads and highways were closed because of the storm.

          Two people perished of hypothermia after trying to walk from their stranded vehicles.

          After the winds calmed, the city was left with around $1 million in cleanup costs.

          9. Saskatchewan floods (May and June 2011)

          In May 2011, after a thick snowpack the previous winter, many communities saw their average annual rainfall fall in the span of a couple months.

          Flash flooding between the Souris River and Assiniboine River began in early May. By June 17, Weyburn was one of 19 Saskatchewan communities to declare a state of emergency.

          Video of the flooding that's displaced hundreds following heavy rains 2:13

          This flooding in southern Saskatchewan caused the evacuation of hundreds of residents and many highway closures, including part of the Trans-Canada. The flooding also displaced residents and caused extensive damage for those in southern Manitoba and North Dakota.

          10. La Ronge wildfires (Summer 2015)

          It was the largest evacuation in Saskatchewan's history. In July 2015, more than 13,000 residents were forced from their homes as wildfires ravaged northern Saskatchewan.

          This was the situation at the La Ronge airport. (Prince Albert Fire Department/Twitter)

          The summer was unusually dry in the northern stretches of the province. Add a couple of lightning strikes, and the parched vegetation lit up.

          By July 6, 112 fires were roaring in the province. Some of those fires infringed on populated areas, including the town of La Ronge, Sask., forcing mass evacuations.

          Fire crews and soldiers from across Canada travelled to northern Saskatchewan to help fight the blazes.

          By August, the fire situation had eased considerably, though many wildfires continued to burn into the fall.

          Corrections

          • A previous version of this story stated that Yellow Grass, Sask., held the record for hottest temperature officially recorded in Canada. In fact, both Yellow Grass and Midale, Sask. share the record for 45.0 C on July 5, 1937.
            Jun 30, 2017 7:33 PM CT

          About the Author

          Christy Climenhaga

          CBC Saskatchewan Meteorologist

          Christy Climenhaga, CBC Saskatchewan's Meteorologist, covers weather for the province. Catch her forecast tonight at 6 on CBC Saskatchewan News.

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