Canada's top 10 weather stories for 2014: Prairie highlights


1. Winds Un-roof School in Saskatchewan

A school gymnasium at Outlook lost part of its roof when violent plough winds blew through southwestern Saskatchewan on May 28. Heavy rain, golf ball-sized hail and wind gusts of up to 90 km/h were reported. Luckily, no one was hurt and the school remained open. The storm also mangled a number of rural storage sheds, tossed tree debris through houses, and flattened buildings, cattle sheds and greenhouses. Toonie-sized hail pummeled Shaunavon and Davidson.

2. Frozen Pipes in Summer?

Temperatures soared to 30°C in Winnipeg on June 1 but, ironically, about 400 residents were still contending with frozen water pipes from the coldest winter in 118 years. The thaw had yet to reach the frost line, which penetrated to record depths of up to 3 metres over winter, leaving many to continue relying on neighbours for water even with summer just around the corner.

3. A Four-Twister Day

On July 5, a series of thunderstorms packing tornadoes moved through south central Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba. One EF2 twister caused extensive damage to farm buildings and equipment north of Outlook. A second tornado (EF0) near Kenaston blew through a cemetery knocking down tombstones and felling trees. Cottages on Crooked Lake were battered by trees and storm waves. On Grenfell Beach, waves more than a metre high pushed some cabins completely away. Environment Canada confirmed two other tornadoes, but the twisters were weak and short-lived and did minimal damage. More destructive were the battering hailstones that came with the storms.

4. Capital Rain Gusher

A large slow-moving but vigorous storm brought heavy rains and strong winds to much of Alberta on July 25. Rainfall totals ranged from 55 mm in Camrose to between 50 and 80 mm across Edmonton. With close to a month’s worth of rain falling in one day, the Alberta capital was left with soaking basements and trashed flowerbeds. Along with the rains, wind speeds peaked at 75 to 95 km/h leading to numerous flight interruptions and power outages.

5. More Rain Gushers

A large, powerful Colorado low - more typical of late fall than summer - pushed a swath of rain with embedded thunderstorms through parts of southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan on August 23. Storm rainfall totals included the following wet spots:  Reston 74 mm; Pierson 65 mm; Virden 64 mm; and Cypress Hills Park 78 mm. Gainsborough was still recovering from June’s floods with the majority of residents living in campers and without drinking water. At Moosomin, the town’s storm-sewer system filled up but avoided flooding. And at Cypress Hills, relentless rains and cold temperatures emptied campgrounds.

6. Nature's Redemption

Following one of the snowiest Septembers in years, Calgary experienced a delightful October that proved to be one of the warmest, sunniest and driest on record. The average temperature soared more than 3°C warmer than normal making it the fourth warmest October with records dating to the 1880s. It was also the warmest October in nearly five decades and, even then, it was only 0.1°C colder than in 1965. One record was set in 2014 - the warmest average minimum temperature (1.7°C) - which had not been seen in 130 years of record-keeping.

7. Down on the Farm

Farmers had one of the most challenging and stressful growing seasons ever as they battled floods, heavy and untimely rains, frozen grounds, cool weather, recurrent hailers, the threat of an early frost and summer snows. As a consequence, production levels were down 15 to 30 per cent from last year’s record numbers. Quality and prices were also down. As much as five million acres went unplanted owing to inclement weather. It seemed that every time fields became dry enough to seed, another 10 to 25 mm of rain would soak the ground. Following a touch of frost in mid-September, farmers returned to their harvesting only to be met with more rain and heavy dew. In southern Alberta, farmers had crops that were flattened by snow. The only savior was dry, sunny and warm weather in late September and into October that helped fields dry out and farmers to salvage a decent growing season.

Several areas were hit with damaging hail more than once during the growing season, and storms were so violent and expansive that the average claim in 2014 was up 42 per cent from last year. In the end, hail, frost and blowdown cost Alberta farm producers dearly in 2014 - $500 million to be exact.

8. Snowstorm from the West

From November 28 to 29, a sopping-wet Pacific weather system moved slowly across Alberta dumping sizable snowfalls over 24 to 36 hours. Blowing snow and poor visibility led to treacherous driving, especially along Highway 2, which is the main road linking Edmonton and Calgary. In the mountain parks, wind gusts of up to 110 km/h and avalanche warnings weren’t enough to keep skiers and snowboarders away from the massive snows, including 75 cm in Marmot Basin and Kananaskis Village. For Saskatchewan, the storm dumped the heaviest snows in two years - between 15 and 25 cm.

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