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My Top 5

It is said that the weather is something Canadians talk about a lot.  I find myself counting the weeks left to see Spring temperatures.  For today’s post, I decided to describe my top 5 weather stories of 2013.

Photo of a street in Alberta during the floods of 2013

Alberta Floods in 2013

 

1.  Alberta’s super flood of May/June washed across one-quarter of the province and through the heart of Calgary – the fourth largest city in Canada.  The damage losses and recovery costs from the flood to exceed $6 billion, including a record $2 billion in insured losses. Trees were literally skinned of their bark 10 metres above the ground by gravel and boulders barrelling along in rushing waters. In Calgary’s downtown, 4,000 businesses were impacted and 3,000 buildings were flooded. Water rose at the Saddledome up to the 10th row. In Stampede Park, stables and barns were under more than two metres of water.

2. Toronto’s Torrent of July  when the city faced two separate storm cells – one on the heels of the other – that slowed then stalled over the city. The one-two weather punch delivered more rain in two hours than Toronto usually sees during an entire July. Exacerbating the storm’s impact was the 38 mm of rain that had fallen on the city the day before. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated the July 8 storm costs at close to $1 billion in damages – the most expensive natural disaster ever in Ontario. Videos captured cars bobbing up and down on streets and highways, sinkholes opening up and snakes swimming inside stalled commuter trains. Thousands were stranded, necessitating rescue by boat in some instances. About 500,000 households were without power for as much as days.

3. February Fog on Fogo. No one got off Newfoundland’s Fogo Island for five days at the end of the month because heavy ice conditions and dense fog shut down ferry and air travel. The Island’s school closed, stores ran low on supplies and residents were unable to attend off-island medical appointments. Feelings of isolation and frustration only increased as strong winds blew more fog in on the Island instead of blowing it away.

4. The Nightmare during Christmas, happened the weekend before Christmas as a vigorous winter storm coated parts of eastern Canada with a thick mixture of snow, ice pellets, rain and freezing rain that plunged large parts of the region into days of cold and darkness. Thick glaze left roads and sidewalks slick and dangerous and knocked down power lines, leaving over 500,000 people without electricity. Though

Downed trees on a road

Nightmare During Christmas

picturesque, the Christmas storm created extremely dangerous conditions as fallen power lines intertwined with broken tree limbs dangled across streets and property. The affected area extended from Lake Huron, across the Greater Toronto Area, east along Highway 401 to Cornwall, through Quebec’s Eastern Townships and across the central Maritimes centred on the Bay of Fundy. The epicentre of the freezing rain was in southern Ontario between Niagara and Trenton where between 20 and 30 mm fell – more than two-year’s worth in two days. It crippled North American transportation at one of the busiest travel times of the year.

5. Prairie Perpetual Winter. Environment Canada considers the months of December through February as winter. Tell that to Canadians on the Prairies, where cold, snow and ice went on for seven months from October 2012 to April 2013, inclusive – the longest and coldest period in 16 years. Snows came early, stayed late and never disappeared. As a result, it felt and looked like winter from before Thanksgiving to a month after Easter. And with deep snow on the ground any warm-up was stalled until late May. Persistent cold – between March 1 and April 30, the average temperature in Regina was -8°C; eleven degrees colder than the previous year and the coldest period in 113 years. The prolonged winter was especially costly for governments. By the end of January, Saskatchewan had already spent $6 million more than usual on snow and ice control with much more to come.

I guess this year’s winter isn’t so bad after all.

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The Day That Disappeared

Tower of David at night מגדל דוד בלילה

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

_

Did you know that on May 19, 1780, at around noon, the sky became as dark as night?  No, it wasn’t a solar nor lunar eclipse. And it didn’t just last a few minutes, either.  “Normal” did not return until the middle of the next night!  This unusual darkening of the sky was experienced in Eastern Canada and the New England states.

There are witnesses’ reports.  Here are a few:

“The birds having sung their evening song disappeared and became silent. . .The fowls retired to roost. … Objects could not be distinguished but at a very little distance; and every thing bore the appearance and gloom of night.” – Samuel Williams, Harvard professor

“I am against adjournment. The day of judgement is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty.  I wish therefore that candles may be brought.” – Abraham Davenport, Connecticut Legislature

There was a poem, by poet John Greenleaf Whittier, written about it:

“Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,

A horror of great darkness, like the night

In day of which the Norland sagas tell,

The Twilight of the Gods. The low-hung sky

Was black with ominous clouds, save where its rim

Was fringed with a dull glow, like that which climbs

The crater’s sides from the red hell below.

Birds ceased to sing, and all the barn-yard fowls

Roosted; the cattle at the pasture bars

Lowed, and looked homeward; bats on leathern wings

Flitted abroad; the sounds of labor died;

Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp

To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter. . . .”

The religious were convinced it was the Day of Judgement:

Matthew 24:29:  “… the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky…” (Signs preceding the return of Christ).

The day was pitch-black and people panicked.  Candles were required and lit everywhere ….

It was a mystery for many years.  It is now believed that the likely cause was a combination of smoke from forest fires, a thick fog and dense cloud cover.

When a fire doesn’t kill a tree, and that tree later grows, scar marks are left in the growth rings. This makes it possible to approximate the date of a past fire. Researchers examining the scar damage in Ontario, Canada, attribute the “Dark Day” to a large fire in the area that is today occupied by Algonquin Provincial Park.

I’ve given you just a few bits and pieces.  I know many of you will want to read some more about this amazing event.  So I’ve chosen a few sites for you.  Let’s start with Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, then there is WikiQuotes; and then Celebrate Boston (the date is wrong, but I’m going to assume the text is correct). Those are good places to start.

 

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