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YEAR IN REVIEW | Wild weather

Canada's most memorable weather moments of 2018


Isabella O'Malley
Digital Writer/Climate Change Reporter

Wednesday, December 26, 2018, 11:27 AM - From coast to coast, no region of Canada was left untouched by the forces of nature in 2018.

Extreme weather in Canada is far from uncommon, and it is likely that each province or territory would feel confident enough to claim that they had the most memorable Canadian weather moment of the year.

Wildfires, flooding, heatwaves and tornadoes caused evacuations, destruction of homes, and permanently changed landscapes. Read below to see what storms your neighbors weathered this year, and how your neck of the woods compares. 

2018'S NEW YEARS EVE WAS BLISTERING COLD IN ALBERTA AND QUEBEC

Many of us remember welcoming in 2018 in particularly frigid conditions, as an arctic air mass swept in extreme cold to much of the country. In Lethbridge, Alberta, a record over 100 years old was beaten when temperatures reached -38.5oC, and the nearby town, Claresholm, reached a new record of -41.8oC. 

Hundreds of kilometers east, many in Quebec were shivering in similar conditions. In Waskaganish, a Cree community on the shore of James Bay saw temperatures dip to -45.2oC, and further north the residents of La Grande Rivière saw a shocking -48.2oC. 

SPRING FLOODING IN B.C. DISPLACED THOUSANDS 

This year was the second year in a row that southern regions of British Colombia were faced with devastating flooding. 



Communities along the Okanagan, Kettle, and Fraser Rivers had a snowy winter, and the snowpack ranged from 160 to 260 per cent more than normal. The record high temperatures in during the end of April and beginning of May triggered a shock melt that overwhelmed river systems and resulted in prolonged flooding. A ridge of hot, dry air that followed days later only worsened the situation and caused rivers to rise to levels that had not been seen in over 50 years and forced over 5,000 residents from their homes. 

SOUTHERN ONTARIO'S WINTRY STORM IN APRIL

A powerful Colorado low blasted much of southern Ontario with whipping winds, ice pellets, freezing rain, and damaging flooding. The wintry storm in the middle of April was particularly unusual, and caused power outages for over 200,000 homes and chaotic driving conditions. 



RECORD COLD IN APRIL, RAPID WARM UP IN MAY

Much of Canada experienced a particularly cold April as a stubborn northerly flow sent continuous waves of cold arctic air. May brought a dramatic change as high pressure set up in the upper atmosphere that prevented cloud formation, which let in long periods of sunlight that brought significant warmth. According to Environment Canada, all of Canada experienced the coldest April in 16 years, and 71 years for Ontario and Quebec. 

VICIOUS WINDSTORM ON MAY 4 FOR ONTARIO AND QUEBEC

Wind gusts in excess of 100 km/h blasted through the southern regions of Ontario and Quebec. These winds, known as a 'sting jet' because of the scorpion's tail appearance of the associated cloud shape visible on satellite, caused at least three fatalities and approximately Ontario suffering from $380 million in damage and $30 million in Quebec. For Ontario, it was the most costly insured event since the Toronto floods in the summer of 2013, which caused nearly $1 billion in damage



MASSIVE DUST DEVILS RIP THROUGH ALBERTA AND ONTARIO

In just over one week's time four powerful dust devils made an appearance, and interestingly three of these occurred over baseball diamonds.



Warm temperatures with fair skies created the perfect conditions for these vortices to form and can become particularly intense when there is a strong contrast between the ground's temperature and the temperature of the air above. 

NEW BRUNSWICK'S HISTORIC FLOODING IN MAY

The combination of late season heavy snowpack and a sudden jump in temperatures near the end of April created a flooding disaster. Rivers throughout the province began to flood and reached historic levels, and some areas surpassed water levels that had not been seen since the 1973 flooding event of the St. John River. The Trans-Canada Highway between Moncton and Frederiction was closed and the Canadian Coast Guard had to be called to help with flood relief efforts.



CANADA DAY HEAT WAVE FOR ONTARIO AND QUEBEC

Millions of Canadians celebrated the long weekend by staying in the shade and close to circulating fans. Large-scale flow from the southern United States brought in tropical heat along with humidity, which created soupy conditions that even had some of the most devout summer lovers complaining. Humidex values made it feel like temperatures were in the mid 40s for both the GTA and regions surrounding Montreal, and the abnormally hot conditions persisted for weeks. 

By July 19 over 93 deaths in Quebec had been directly related to the heat wave, and many who perished were over the age of 60 and suffered from some form of chronic illness. 

DEADLY EF-4 TORNADO IN MANITOBA

On August 3 an EF-4 tornado in Manitoba killed Jack Furrie, a 77 year old retired teacher, and hospitalized two other people. 



The powerful tornado ripped through the communities of Alonsa, Silver Ridge, and Margaret Bruce Beach and had maximum winds between 267 and 322 km/h. 

SEVERE DOWNPOUR SWAMPS TORONTO, CAUSES FLOODING

Downtown Toronto August 9 found itself in quite the predicament - a slow-moving storm system carrying significant amounts of tropical moisture stalled over the core of downtown Toronto, and brought more than 100 mm in less than 3 hours for some neighborhoods. 



The heavy rain was highly localized, as Pearson airport recorded only 6 mm, whereas the heaviest rainfall amounts were greater than 120 mm.

TEMPERATURES REACHED OR EXCEED 40oC IN THREE SASKATCHEWAN CITIES

On August 10 Saskatchewan was battling a persistent heatwave, and several locations saw temperatures above 40oC. As reported by Environment Canada, Swift Current and Regina saw 40.0oC, Moose Jaw was the hottest spot in the entire country at 41.3oC. 

B.C. AND ALBERTA GOT SNOW AT THE END OF SUMMER

The collision of a cold front and a moisture stream had the West looking more like a winter wonderland instead of a summer paradise. 



Parts of B.C. and Alberta were blanketed with heavy snow during the second week of September and was the first snowfall for many in this region. 

SIX TORNADOES OCCUR ON THE LAST DAY OF SUMMER 

On September 21 eastern Ontario and southern Quebec wrapped up the summer season with a total of six tornadoes and two downbursts. A transformer that supplies 60 per cent of the power to Ottawa was struck and resulted in a sustained power outage, along with hundreds of homes and cars sustaining costly damage. 



FIRE WHIRL SNATCHES HOSE FROM FIREFIGHTER IN B.C.

For months hundreds of wildfires burned and caused thousands to evacuate and the province to declare a state of emergency. It was the second time in two years that a state of emergency was declared and by August 29 the wildfire season was declared the worst on record. 

This firefighter was not only battling the fires in the forest, but struggled to fight the swirling vortex of flames that his hose got caught in. 



WATERSPOUT OUTBREAK ACROSS LAKE ONTARIO AND LAKE ERIE

On October 23 photos began to make the rounds over social media as multiple waterspouts formed over Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. 



Waterspouts share a similar appearance to tornadoes, and they are small and relatively weak rotating columns of air over water underneath a cumulonimbus or towering cumulus cloud. 

HAPPY VALLEY GOT +130 CM OF SNOW BEFORE WINTER EVEN STARTED

While most Canadians were beginning to reach for their fall coats, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador had already received a whopping +130 cm of snow by mid November.

This region is all too familiar with significant snowfalls, but this year was an exception for this region as it marked the most snow on record during this short time frame.

SOUTHERN ONTARIO'S TORNADO WARNING IN DECEMBER 

A rare set of severe thunderstorms swept through southwestern Ontario on December 3, which prompted tornado warnings which are particularly uncommon at that time of year. 

SASKATCHEWAN'S WINTER WONDERLAND

Calm atmospheric conditions combined with an abundance of moisture and created a stunning winter wonderland throughout Saskatchewan on December 4. 



The beautiful ice formations are likely a combination of rime ice and hoar frost, which formed after multiple days of fog and freezing fog. 

B.C.'S WORST WINDSTORM IN 20 YEARS

The December 20th windstorm was one of the worst that the west coast has seen in decades, and resulted in significant damage to British Columbia’s electrical transmission infrastructure in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. 



The storm tracked over a tight pressure gradient in the extremely vulnerable regions of the Southern Gulf Islands, greater Victoria and Nanaimo, and as a result thousands spent the holidays without electricity. 

RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES AT THE END OF DECEMBER IN ATLANTIC CANADA

Toasty temperatures aren't typical around this holiday season, but double-digit warmth was experienced throughout Atlantic Canada on December 22. Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia shattered a record over 100 years old, and reached 12.9oC versus the high of 11.1oC set in 1902, and the highest daily temperature was recorded at 17oC in Greenwood, Nova Scotia.


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