Waves caused by Hurricane Teddy batter the shore in Cow Bay, N.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. It’s been another year of record-breaking disasters and crazy, dangerous weather from coast to coast, says Environment Canada’s senior climatologist. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Waves caused by Hurricane Teddy batter the shore in Cow Bay, N.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. It’s been another year of record-breaking disasters and crazy, dangerous weather from coast to coast, says Environment Canada’s senior climatologist. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

‘Expensive, extreme:’ Environment Canada releases annual Top 10 weather stories list

‘There’s no vaccine for extreme weather’

It was another year of record-breaking disasters and crazy, dangerous weather from coast to coast, says Environment Canada’s senior climatologist.

A vicious hailstorm in Calgary wrote off more cars than Albertans normally buy in an entire year. Heat in Ontario quadrupled Toronto’s normal number of hot, stuffy nights.

The East Coast experienced eight hurricanes compared with the normal two or three. A chokehold of wildfire smoke gave southern British Columbia some of the dirtiest air in the world.

A flood washed residents of Fort McMurray, Alta., from their homes.

“It was an expensive year. It was an extreme year,” said Dave Phillips. “There were no shockers.”

Compiling the annual list of Top 10 Canadian weather events since 1996 hasn’t left Phillips blase. It’s just that, after 24 straight years of normal or above-normal temperatures, this is what Canada can now expect.

“Scientists have seen this very clear link between climate change and weather extremes,” said Phillips. “There’s no denying it any more.”

The year 2020, he said, was remarkable for the impact weather and climatic events outside Canada had inside its borders.

Waters in the Atlantic, far off Canadian shores, were up to three degrees warmer than average.

“Conditions outside of Canada made for a more active hurricane season,” Phillips said. “It was a hyperactive season.”

Smoke from vast wildfires in the U.S. Pacific Northwest drifted into southern B.C. and as far as the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Victoria and Vancouver had up to 80 per cent more smoky hours in September than they did in 2018 when the province was ablaze.

“What 2020 showed, through smoky skies in British Columbia, frequent hurricanes in the East, and vanishing ice in the North, is that climate change occurring elsewhere outside of Canada is also having an increasingly greater impact on the health and well-being of Canadians at home,” Phillips said.

Weather events cost Canadians $2.5 billion overall this year — and that’s just insured losses.

Phillips’s top weather story occurred June 13 when golf-ball-sized hail pounded Calgary.

Driven by 70-kilometre winds, the icy missiles shattered windows, downed trees and battered 32,000 cars. The flood that followed swamped streets, led to blackouts in more than 10,000 homes and cost about $1.3 billion in insurance claims.

B.C.’s smoky September took the next spot.

At one point, Victoria was shrouded for 186 consecutive hours. In some places, temperatures fell eight degrees as smoke blotted the sun. Vancouver’s air was up to seven times more toxic than it had been during B.C.’s 2018 wildfires.

Back to Alberta for third place.

A cold spring followed by rapid warmth and rain caused ice jams that raised water levels on rivers in the Fort McMurray area between 4 1/2 and six metres in a matter of hours. The ice slabs were so big explosives couldn’t remove them and 13,000 residents had to leave their homes for more than a week.

Anendless — and merciless — summer in Central and Eastern Canada was fourth.

On May 27, Montreal hit 36.6 C, an all-time May record. In June, Quebec broke 140 temperature records. Ottawa’s average temperature for the hot spell was its highest in 145 years.

Fredericton had the most days above 30 C in 50 years. Summerside, P.E.I. had 10 such days compared with the average of one.

It wouldn’t be a Canadian list without a snowfall story. This year it came from St. John’s, NL., where a blizzard deemed a “bomb cyclone” in January howled 18 straight hours. Nearly a metre of snow buried cars up to their hood ornaments.

Canada needs to come to grips with climate change, said Phillips, who added that the COVID-19 pandemic may show reason for optimism.

“The lesson from the pandemic is that the world mobilized,” Phillips said.

“Science is the winner. Climate change (science) may very well benefit from that.”

At least, that’s his hope.

“There’s no vaccine for extreme weather.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Best of 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Victoria’s economy is expected to bounce back fairly easily, according to a new report from BMO Capital Markets released April 15. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria in good position to bounce back post-pandemic, says BMO

City’s smaller size, lower COVID-19 caseload and diverse industry base bode well

Three new flight exposures have been reported departing from or arriving at the Victoria International Airport between April 7 and 11. (File photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Three flight exposures reported at Victoria International Airport

One flight on April 7 and two on April 11 had confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard

A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at David Cameron Elementary School. People may have been exposed on April 14 to 16. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Colwood elementary school

Exposure at Esquimalt’s Ecole Victor-Brodeur also confirmed

According to Statistics Canada, the unemployment rate in Greater Victoria rose to 5.7 per cent in March 2021, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to February 2021. But the local unemployment rate remains the among the lowest in Canada. (Black Press Media File)
Greater Victoria’s unemployment rate rises to 5.7 per cent

The increase marks a reversal from recent months, but local economy among the strongest in Canada

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read