Forest fires, floods and tornadoes: Saskatchewan's top weather stories of 2020

2020 has been anything but predictable and the weather was no exception.

Saskatchewan weather in 2020 was anything but seasonal

A tornado charges through Saskatchewan on July 4, 2020. (Braydon Morisseau )

2020 has been anything but predictable and the weather was no exception.

We started the new year with relatively warm temperatures, but it only took until the middle of the month for winter to make its presence known. 

An extreme cold warning blanketed the province due to an arctic air mass hovering over the province. By Jan. 13, wind chill values made it feel like –40 to –46 C. Some areas in the southern portion of the province even saw values as low as –50.

By Jan. 15, Regina's daytime high dropped to –27.7 C, and plummeted to –36.6 C overnight. Seasonal temperatures for this this time of year for Regina are usually –11 C for a daytime high and –23 C for overnight lows.

Wind chill values hit below –50 in Saskatoon. (CBC News (WSI))

In Saskatoon, the wind chill value hit –52 on Jan. 15, but it didn't break the record on that day of –59 set in 1954. 

May long weekend brings fiery chaos to Shipman, Sask.

A wildfire in Saskatchewan's Fort a la Corne forest encroached on some farmland. (Submitted by Sarah Soloducha)

It was all hands on deck by 11 a.m. on May 17 as a forest fire jumped the river that divided Walter Matieyshen's property from his neighbours. 

Matieyshen and his wife live on a farm approximately 10 km southeast of Shipman, Sask., and had seen fires flare up from Fort à la Corne before — but nothing of this magnitude. 

He had been helping his neighbour keep the fires back on May 16, but then the wind shifted and the fire started toward his home. By the afternoon, the fire had grown to 15,000 hectares.

The forest fire near Fort à la Corne resulted in local evacuations. (Walter Matieyshen)

The speed at which the fire was spreading through central Saskatchewan prompted two advisory alerts for the surrounding communities. The RM of Torch River, RM of Garden River #490, plus the communities of Smeaton, Choiceland and White Fox were told to prepare should an evacuation take place.

According to one alert, the fire had serious potential to cause emergency situations to the public. The alert also said the wildfire was currently burning along the northwest edge of the RM of Torch River.

At the peak of the fire over the weekend, some residents of James Smith Cree Nation were evacuated due to concerns about smoke from the fire.

Heavy rain eventually helped fire fighters get ahead of the blaze and get it under control. By its end, the fire had covered 41,000 hectares of land.

June and July bring flash floods to Humboldt

Rainwater covered Ninth Street in Humboldt, Sask., on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (Reel Attractions Ltd.)

It all started on June 14 when Humboldt declared a state of emergency after a storm ripped through the town. The storm began around 3 p.m., hitting the northwestern portion of the city the hardest, and lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

The storm was so strong it even knocked a train off the tracks near Birch Hills and a semi-trailer truck was flipped on its side on Highway 3. Residents said baseball-sized hail peppered their homes.

Environment Canada said 25 millimetres of rain fell on the area in 10 minutes. It's estimated the area received 90 millimetres of rain.

The deluge overwhelmed the city's drainage system, causing flooding and prompting the Mayor, Rob Muench, to order a local state of emergency.

Major hail was seen in Assiniboia, while tornadoes were reported in other parts of Saskatchewan on Saturday. (Andy Lee/Facebook)

But then on the eve of Canada Day, Mother Nature had another stormy trick up her sleeve.

Muench said the northwest part of the city was hit the hardest, with some neighbourhoods seeing water rise as high as 60 millimetres.

As the ground was still heavily saturated from the previous storm, water couldn't soak into the ground resulting in flooded streets and some basements.

These two weather events resulted in the North Saskatchewan River to swell and attributed to the worst flooding in the area since 1974.

Three tornadoes touch down in one day

Dark clouds near Glenbain, Sask., on July 4, 2020. (Twitter/Jeff Wilson)

On Saturday, July 4, Environment Canada issued tornado warnings around 3:40 p.m. central time. A storm system headed southeast across the province, hitting the village of Kincaid and the hamlet of Glenbain around 4:30 p.m. A tornado was later confirmed in the area of Glenbain.

This map from CBC Meteorologist Christy Climenhaga details the tornado warnings that were in place for south central Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Another tornado touched down around the village of Kincaid at roughly 4:40 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, and then Environment Canada said around 6:20 p.m. a third tornado touched down near Assiniboia.

The storm system also created damaging winds, intense rainfall and large hail as it moved across the province.

Snow storm shuts down province, postpones election

A strong low-pressure system brought blizzard conditions, heavy snow and freezing rain to parts of the Canadian Prairies on Nov. 7 and 8, shutting down roads in Saskatchewan and Alberta and setting new all-time November snow records.

The town of Kindersley in Saskatchewan recorded 47.6 cm of snow on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7 and 8, setting a new 48-hour snowfall record. 

Kingsmere Boulevard in Saskatoon was difficult to drive down after a mid-November snow storm. (Submitted to CBC)

Saskatoon and Swift Current were the worst hit by the storm. For them it started on Friday night when freezing rain hit the region, turning the roads into skating rinks and keeping emergency crews hopping. When the snow arrived it was then sitting on a base of ice, which proved to make the clean-up even more challenging.

Winter storm and blizzard warnings were put in place and many roads were closed.

When the system finally passed Swift Current and Saskatoon had totals over 55 centimetres. 

On Monday Nov. 9, Saskatchewan residents were supposed to head to the polls to vote in municipal elections. Saskatoon and Swift Current struggled to recover from the storm, and the clean-up process was made slower due to blowing wind. They ultimately decided to postpone their municipal elections until Friday, Nov. 13.

As for what will 2021 look like? Only time will tell, but this is for sure: the living skies of Saskatchewan as always will bring wonder, awe and heartache.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?