Alberta flooding top weather story of 2013

Record-breaking floods in southern Alberta and Toronto lead Environment Canada's top 10 weather stories of 2013.

Toronto flooding, B.C. sunshine also make Environment Canada's top 10 weather list


  • An ice storm left hundreds of thousands without power in Eastern Canada on Dec. 22 and 23.

Flooding in Alberta and Toronto took the top two spots, respectively, on Environment Canada's biggest weather stories of 2013.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has said those flooding incidents constitute the first and third largest insured natural catastrophes in Canadian history.

Here's Environment Canada's complete list, which stretches from coast to coast, and includes everything from raging storms to record-breaking sunshine.

1) Alberta flooding

Torrential downpours overwhelmed vast areas of southern Alberta, killing four people, forcing 100,000 from their homes and causing billions of dollars in damage.

David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist, called it "the flood of floods" and one of the "most disruptive" storm events in Canadian history.

"The sheer volume and the force of the raging waters inflicted really permanent scars on the province," he said in a news conference Thursday.

2) Toronto flooding

Soldiers place sandbags to protect homes from the rising Bow River in Calgary this June. Environment Canada has chosen the Alberta floods as the top weather story of 2013. (Melissa Renwick/Reuters)
Three weeks after the Alberta flooding, large parts of downtown Toronto were inundated by more rain in two hours than the city usually sees in the entire month of July.

The rain flooded roads, swamped cars and left hundreds of thousands without power. About 1,400 people were stranded on a commuter train with water up to the windows before they were rescued by Toronto police officers and firefighters.

"When you look at the amounts of rain that fell ... it was like Toronto was the bull's eye," said Phillips, who described it as "a direct hit with a drenching rain storm."

3) Bumper crop in West, up and down elsewhere

"In the West, the growing season came pretty darn close to perfect with food producers describing it as incredible, bin-busting and best in a lifetime," the Environment Canada report said. 

It was a bumper year for wheat, barley, oats and canola. In fact, farmers said it was such a good year that they were having a hard time getting all their product to market.

In the eastern half of the country, the growing season was more variable, Environment Canada said, with some crop yields up and others down.

4) Expected Red River Valley flood doesn't happen

Flooding makes the list again this time because it never materialized. Environment Canada said it seemed another major Red River Valley flood was inevitable, but cold spring days and very cold nights allowed a slow, gradual melt.

5) Arctic ice, Great Lakes water both rebound

Toronto's flood swamped major roadways. (Mark Blinch)
The coldest summer in 15 years in the eastern Arctic helped slow sea ice melting in the Canadian Arctic Ocean to within three per cent of the normal minimum coverage and resulted in the greatest ice extent since 2005. And the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence was more than 13 per cent wetter than normal, which helped restore water levels.​

All five of the lakes were significantly higher when measured at the end of October than a year earlier. 

6) Wicked winter weather in the East

"In February, two weather systems morphed into a blizzard of historic proportions with as much as 60 cm of snow falling along the Atlantic coast," Environment Canada's report said. "For many in southern Ontario and Quebec, it was a one-day event that packed a punch with strong gusty winds and tons of blowing snow."

7) Spring flooding in Ontario cottage country

Torrential April showers and a sudden snowmelt in Ontario's cottage country engorged rivers and raised water to historic flood levels not seen in 100 years.

The flooding left at least seven central Ontario communities in a state of emergency.

8) Prairie winter goes on forever

"Environment Canada considers the months of December through February as winter," Environment Canada said. "Tell that to the Prairies, where cold, snow and ice went on for seven months from October 2012 to April 2013."

In Winnipeg, the first day of spring included a low of –22 C. 

9) 5 young fishermen die during storm off N.S.

Arctic sea ice rebounded in 2013. (Geoff York/World Wildlife Fund/Reuters)
The sinking of a Nova Scotia fishing vessel in February claimed the lives of five young men from Woods Harbour in mid-February.

The Miss Ally overturned in rough waters on Feb. 17 about 120 kilometres southeast of Liverpool, N.S. The hull was found floating in the ocean several days later, with the wheelhouse and sleeping areas missing. 

Weather conditions at the time were extremely poor, with waves of between eight and 10 metres, blowing snow, zero visibility and up to hurricane-force winds.

The storm "was not the most powerful, not the biggest, but it was the most tragic," Phillips said.

10) Sunny and rainless in B.C.

B.C. had record-breaking sunshine in July, when not a single drop of rain was recorded in Vancouver and Victoria.

Environment Canada notes that 2013 was another warm year in Canada — the 17th in a row — especially southern B.C. where climatologists recorded the region's fourth warmest December to November period in 66 years.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press


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