Science

2005 sets rain and flood records

2005 was the wettest year in Canada in six decades and the Alberta floods were the most notorious weather story of the year, according to Environment Canada.

The year 2005 was the wettest in Canada in six decades, says Environment Canada, which also cites the Alberta floods last June as the top weather event in the last 12 months.

"We had across Canada the wettest year in the past 60 years that we've been measuring records right across the country, particularly in the summer," said senior climatologist David Phillips. "It was the wettest summer on record."

The other top weather headlines were, in order and in Phillips's words:

  • Manitoba's Worst Widespread Flooding Ever.
  • Ontario's Most Expensive Weather Disaster.
  • From a Bummer to a Hummer of a Summer.
  • Year of the Hurricane...But not in Canada.
  • April Showers Bring May Floods to the Maritimes.
  • Winter Snow Goes Missing in British Columbia.
  • Atlantic Canada's Week of Snow.
  • November's Nasty Weather Brew.
  • B.C.'s Tropical Punch.
On the top-story front, record flooding in southern Alberta turned small creeks into mighty rivers, forcing cities like Calgary to deal with three times the amount of water that usually flows through it. 

"It became a $400-million hit," said Phillips. "Most of that came from insurance losses, but also losses of infrastructure. And sadly, it cost four people their lives."

The deluge wasn't restricted to Alberta.

Manitoba endured a virtual monsoon last spring, with floods covering a record amount of land. Highways were submerged for days on end, and there were more road closures at one time than the province had ever seen, wrote Phillips.

In Toronto and southern Ontario, the big story was a tempest that featured torrential rains, quarter- to golf-ball size hail, and flash flooding. During the height of the storm, there were 1,400 lightning strikes per minute, and two tornadoes.

However, it was the flash flooding that caused the greatest destruction. The storm dumped 103 mm of rain within an hour.

Nova Scotia's claim to fame was its driest summer on record, but not before it suffered through its wettest spring ever. In Halifax, 598 mm of rain fell between March and May, nearly double the normal amount.

B.C. saw a winter version of extremes.

Ski hills were bare for most of the winter, thanks to a "Tropical Punch" that saw temperatures ranging around 18C in mid-January. At the peak of the ski season, the snow pack measured a paltry 12% of normal levels. But in April, just as most ski resorts were closing, a record 360 cm of snow fell.

The list also included an active hurricane season in the Atlantic and a long summer of heat, humidity and smog in Ontario and Quebec.

However, some experts said the weather wasn't any worse when compared to historic averages, but that people were paying more attention to it.

"The more we expand and the more, quote, 'modern' we become, I think the more susceptible we are to the things that have affected us all the years in the past," said Dan Kulak of Environment Canada's weather office in Alberta.

As for 2006, Phillips predicted continuing wild weather across the country, but that things would be a bit warmer.

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