Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay's wet October helped area watercourses after dry summer, LRCA says

While October was an unusually wet, grey month in Thunder Bay, Ont., the rain this fall has helped area waterways return to more normal levels after a dry summer.

Lakehead Region Conservation Authority says rivers under designated low water conditions this year

Thunder Bay saw more cloud and rain in October than usual, according to a climatologist in the city. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

While October was an unusually wet, grey month in Thunder Bay, Ont., the rain this fall has helped area waterways return to more normal levels after a dry summer.

That's according to the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, the body that's responsible, among other things, for monitoring local rivers and streams. Chief administrative officer Tammy Cook said water levels were designated as low, starting in May; that was lifted at the beginning of October.

"If we had low precipitation into the fall, we would have seen people's wells going dry, that kind of thing, into the winter," she said. "So this recharge into the fall really helped bring ... the ground water levels back up to normal levels."

October, itself, was unusually wet in Thunder Bay, both in terms of the total rainfall the city received and the number of days with overcast skies and rain falling, according to weather experts.

Environment Canada meteorologist Peter Kimbell said the city typically sees about 63 millimetres of rain in October but this year, 107 millimetres fell.  On Oct. 10, 37 millimetres fell during one 24-hour period.

Not much sunshine

Environment Canada no longer tracks how many days per-month of sunshine the city gets, but Graham Saunders, a local climatologist, continues to keep his own records. He says October saw more days of rain and cloud than usual.

"I'd say that it wasn't a great month for people with solar panels," Saunders said.

"There was a lot of cloud and spotty rainfall on a lot of days," he continued. "Not every day, but a lot of days."

Saunders said that the city saw a measurable amount of rain on 23 days in October, which is roughly double what Thunder Bay usually sees during the month.

The rain that fell on those days "doesn't mean just a couple of drops," Saunders said. "It means something you can actually measure in a rain gauge."

Still, the city didn't set any rainfall records during October.

The cloud cover did help to keep temperatures relatively stable throughout the month, Saunders said.

Lake Superior remaining relatively high

While the rivers and streams in the Thunder Bay area that feed Lake Superior remained relatively low throughout most of the year, before rising to more normal levels in the fall, the big lake itself has stayed relatively high.

Lake Superior is a few centimetres lower than 2017, but higher than in 2016, according to Rob Caldwell, the Canadian secretary for the International Lake Superior Board of Control. Still, the overall levels have remained higher over the past four years than the roughly decade and a half that preceded them.

"From about 2000 to until about 2014, we had a period of significantly low water levels on the Upper Great Lakes ... we've been above average ever since," Caldwell said. "So ... it's certainly been a wet period for the past four or so years."

The higher water levels are attributed to more rain in the area in recent years, he said, combined with other factors like runoff into the Great Lakes and less evaporation.

now