Holiday disasters: The 12 storms of Christmas
Thursday, December 24, 2015, 9:06 AM - Christmastime is supposed to be full of good cheer, especially if you live in a part of the world where you might wake up on December 25 to find snow on the ground outside.
But sometimes, your White Christmas can get out of hand, and make the season a nightmare.
We looked back through history for times when the holiday season was marred with intense weather or other natural disasters.
Here are your 12 storms of Christmas.
2013: The great ice storm
The ice storm before Christmas 2013 cost lives, left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark, and brought travel to a grinding halt at a time when many were on the road to visit family.
It began December 20 in communities in Ontario, and by the time the freezing rain finally stopped falling (after 43 hours at Pearson in Toronto), some 30 mm of ice accretion was being measured in the worst-hit areas, according to Environment Canada.
Freezing rain fell from Lake Huron all the way through to New Brunswick’s Fundy Shore, in a slow pan over several days. More than enough time for ice to slowly buildup on every available hard surface.
Ice-laden tree branches fell onto cars, homes, and power lines. Hundreds of thousands of customers lost power, and more than 100,000 didn’t get it back until after Boxing Day.
The roads were a slippery nightmare. Numerous collisions were reported, when people dared travel at all. Along them were six highway fatalities.
The lack of power contributed to still more deaths. People made do with generators and other heating methods, but not always accounting for fumes. At least five people died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The death toll and scope pales in comparison with the 1998 storm in Ontario and Quebec, that killed more than 20 people people and left millions without power, many for weeks.
But its Christmastime arrival adds a layer of cruel timing that makes it memorable in its own right.
2013: The UK's Christmas floods
We’re used to Christmas snow storms (and less common, ice storms!), but in England, it was floods, not flakes, that caused chaos across the pond in 2013.
The country had already been slammed by powerful winter weather in early December that all but shut down rain and air transportation in Scotland and left 100,000 homes without power. Another round in mid-December was a prelude to the deluge that began December 24.
Near-record amounts of rain poured down onto a landscape too saturated to absorb it. Fields and roads were flooded, and rivers burst their banks. Aerial shots of southern England towns vanishing beneath flood waters were all too common.
Sailors and motorists had to be rescued from the flood waters. The Guardian reports at least five people died in weather-related incidents, including one man whom the BBC says drowned after jumping into a swollen river to rescue his dog. The animal was later found unharmed.
And according to the UK Met Office, it wasn’t even close to stopping. There were two more rounds later in the month leading to the new year, followed by a January that was the country’s wettest in 250 years.
In all, the first half of 2014 proved to be the country’s third wettest on record.
2013: The eastern Caribbean storm
Thousands of kilometres away, people in the eastern Caribbean spent Christmas at the mercy of pounding rains, the result of what some called a “freak storm”
St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were the three hardest-hit nations. In St. Vincent, officials said 300 mm of rain – more than the island gets in a month – fell over the course of five hours, sparking floods and triggering mudslides.
Nine people were killed, including a two-year-old child.
In St. Lucia, six people died, and the economic damage was extensive. Around 40 per cent of the banana crop was destroyed, along with 90 per cent of the vegetable crop.
We don’t have any reports of the death toll (if any) for Dominica, but the country’s ambassador to the OAS said the storm did around $18.5 million in damage – and suggested climate change contributed to the devastating storm.
2012: Southern U.S.
This is one people in the Deep South will be talking about for some time to come.
A powerful storm system swept much of the region. Where temperatures were below zero or very near it, it manifested as 25 cm of snow and hours of freezing rain, making highways all but impassible, downing trees and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people.
And in areas where it was warmer, it was thunderstorms and tornadoes. The National Weather Service says as many as 48 tornadoes may have spawned in several states.
One, famously, was caught on camera atop the local news station in Mobile, Alabama, as it swept the town’s outskirts. Watch the flashes of light at its base as it wrecks the city’s power infrastructure:
No serious injuries were reported from the twisters, but the system that spawned them was blamed for three deaths: Two due to falling trees, and another on a snow-covered highway.
NEXT PAGE: The catastrophic Boxing Day tsunami