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Names and places that made weather headlines in 2017

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, December 31, 2017, 6:34 AM - Another year is close to wrapping up, and we're looking back on the names and places that made headlines in 2017.

Whether it was extreme weather within Canada's borders, to catastrophic hurricanes far beyond them, here's what drove our readers' interest this past year.


In a summer that saw multiple hurricanes for the history books, Hurricane Irma was the one that captured the most attention among Weather Network readers.

The monster storm, reaching Category 5 at its peak, hammered much of the Caribbean through the early part of September, including the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico and Cuba, before striking Florida as the strongest storm the state had seen in years.

It was one of the most powerful storms to hit the Leeward Islands, causing major devastation to several islands, and rendering the island of Barbuda, part of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, all but uninhabitable.

Across its entire path, millions of people were forced to evacuate, and millions of homes were left without power. More than 130 people were killed, and the damages totaled more than $60 billion.

Scarborough, Toronto

Thunderstorms are a staple of Canada's weather, and in some provinces, they can turn tornadic when the temperature is right. Still, the weekend of June 17 will be one to remember from 2017 for people in southern Ontario.

Both days that weekend saw tornado watches and warnings, but on Saturday, at one point tornado warnings covered much of the GTA, a very rare thing for the metropolis.

Most of the warnings eventually dropped for the GTA except for the city of Toronto itself -- another rarity -- where meteorologists tracked a cell across Scarborough. That warning moved to Pickering and Oshawa as the cell moved out of the city limits, with the warning dropping soonafter. Other warnings, near Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, lasted long past sunset before dropping.

WATCH BELOW: Slow-motion lightning caught during tornado-warned Toronto storm:


Other thunderstorms that summer would be marked by tornado warnings, and a series of storms leading into the August long weekend prompted one of The Weather Network's most-viewed weather stories online.


Hot on the heels of Irma was hurricane Maria, crossing parts of the Caribbean that had already been hard-hit.

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The Windward Islands, particularly Dominica, were hard-hit, but Puerto Rico suffered the worst of the storm's impact.

The storm devastated the island so thoroughly that it left almost all of its 3.5 million inhabitants without power or clean drinking water. Weeks after the storm made landfall, the island is still in poor shape, with power outages still intermittent.


Hurricane Harvey was the first of several hurricanes that claimed hundreds of lives and left widespread devastation in the Caribbean.

Making a direct hit on Texas, the storm dumped more than a metre of rain on some areas, breaking all-time rainfall records for the entire country and inundating entire communities, including Houston, where thousands of people had to be rescued from the rising waters.

Some 90 people were eventually confirmed dead, and the storm inflicted around $200 billion worth of damage, the worst in U.S. history.

Highway 401

Highway 401, the nation's busiest, features in many a curse uttered by drivers in southern Ontario, and not just for the day-to-day traffic.

From the first snowflake of the season, through to the torrential downpours of summer storms, the weather is a whole factor on its own when riding through the region, and more often than not, it can turn deadly, as it did in March, when a major pile up was caught on camera:

More than 30 vehicles were involved in the pileup, took place in snowy weather. One person, a 45-year-old truck driver from Hamilton, Ont., died in hospital as a result of his injuries. 28 others were hospitalized with varying injuries, including 13 who were exposed to a spilled toxic substance spilled during the pile-up.

Williams Lake, B.C.

This town of 10,000 became emblematic of a wildfire crisis that has been one of B.C.'s worst in living memory.

WATCH BELOW: 5 must-see videos from B.C. wildfires, number 4 shows real terror

Williams Lake, in B.C.'s Cariboo region, had to be completely evacuated as a nearby wildfire seemed to threaten it in mid-July. The evacuees joined tens of thousands of others that had to flee their homes over the course of the summer of 2017, thanks to numerous wildfires.

At last check, more than 1,300 wildfires had burned in B.C., scorching an area 1.2 million hectares.

It couldn't have looked more different at the beginning of the season. Before the prolonged period of parched weather, a series of storms in the spring brought major downpours, causing flooding that prompted evacuation alerts


The Weather Network often covers typhoons -- the meteorological term for tropical storms that form in the northern Pacific -- but in 2017, it was a cyclone -- the name for storms that form in the southern Pacific or Indian Ocean -- that caught the most attention outside of the Atlantic.

Cyclone Debbie was an uncommonly strong storm that made headlines as it began plodding toward Australia's northeastern state of Queensland in March. It reached Category 4 status by the time it made landfall.

Though Australia is no stranger to cyclones, it was still a powerful hit, and by the time the crisis had passed, some 14 people had been killed and almost $2 billion in damage had been inflicted.

Dundas, Ont.

This small community, part of the Greater Hamilton area, made headlines during Ontario's rainier than normal spring, thanks to a series of thunderstorms on April 20 that brought extreme rainfall to parts of southwestern Ontario.

Dundas received around 75 mm in just a few hours that day, causing major localized flooding. Nearby Hamilton picked up 72.6 mm from the same storms, a little more than a millimetre above the city's entire average April rainfall.

Other storms may not have been that extreme, but Ontario and Quebec both saw rainier than normal conditions for weeks. Higher-than-normal water levels on the province's watersheds made for elevated flood risks, and the swollen waters of Lake Ontario added to the risk for coastal communities. Most famously, low-lying Toronto Island was closed to tourists for a good chunk of the summer as residents battled the flooding.

In Quebec and Eastern Ontario, excessive rain and higher snowpack caused several flood crises, with several communities forced to declare states of emergency.

Lake Huron

People in parts of southern Ontario may have been content with the milder-than-normal winter, but it was bad news for people who lived on Lake Huron.

The lake, along with Georgian Bay, remained largely unfrozen for much of the winter, so when the cold winter winds blew over their waters, the result was lake-effect snow, on and off, for much of the season.

The winds themselves turned deadly. In early March, gusts of more than 100 km/h raced through the southwest, contributing to a collapse at a construction site that killed one person.

That same storm toppled trees and vehicles, and left some 60,000 customers without power at the peak. A mild winter does not necessarily mean a winter without severe weather, and that much was extra apparent in February, when a system brought several hours of freezing rain to much of the province.

Gander, N.L

While other parts of Canada were content with a milder winter, the East Coast was once again the target of harsh storms, including nor'easters that sometimes followed on the heels of each other.

Gander, N.L. had the dubious honour of being the poster child for the harshness of the season. The community received 130 cm of snow over the course of a single week, and by early April, some 241 cm of snow was on the ground, breaking a record from 2004.


The march of the seasons pays no mind to what the calendar says, as people in Labrador found when they became among the first Canadians to see winter's return in 2017.

The snow that began falling in the territory on the last day of August lingered into September 1, covering highways and bringing the summer straight into winter without much of a transition.

A scant few weeks later, it was the Prairies' turn. Full-fledged snowfall warnings were in effect at higher elevations (Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Saskatchewan picked up some 35 cm), and travel was difficult across the region. 

North Pole

Canada owns a fair chunk of the Arctic region, and not far away from Canadian soil, a temperature surge at the North Pole saw a spike of some 30 degrees, far higher than what would be normal for February.

The spike was as a result of two storms that rolled through the region, and as our science writer Scott Sutherland explained at the time, it boded ill for sea-ice extent in the Arctic, which has been declining for years.

WATCH BELOW: How Canada's climate changed in 2017

Five terrible things extreme cold does to the human body
'Classic' Canadian winter making a comeback: Details
Visualizing what Harvey's impacts would look like in Canada
Avoiding a pileup rests on remembering these driving tips
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