Heat, hail and hurricanes: A list of Canada's Top 10 weather events in 2020

·3 min read

Dave Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, has been compiling a Top 10 list of Canada's weather events for more than two decades. Here are his picks for 2020:

1. Calgary's billion-dollar hailstorm: On June 13, warm humid air collided with winds at various altitudes to generate several rounds of thunderstorm cells. Visibility dropped to half a kilometre, temperatures fell five degrees in less than six minutes and icy golf balls pounded down from the skies driven by 70-km/h winds. Hail shook houses, broke windows, downed trees and damaged 32,000 cars. Insured damages totaled $1.4 billion.

2. British Columbia's smoky September: Although the province's own wildfire season was light, smoke from vast blazes in the U.S. Pacific Northwest choked the province for days. Residents from Victoria and east to the Kootenay region faced some of the worst air quality on record and some of the poorest and unhealthiest air in the world.

3. Flooding in Fort McMurray, Alta: Weeks of extreme cold followed by a week of rapid warming produced ice jams in April on the Clearwater river so severe explosives couldn't clear them. Area rivers rose up to six metres, forcing 13,000 people from their homes. One man drowned, 1,320 buildings were damaged and hundreds of vehicles swamped.

4. Endless, merciless, summer: Heat records started in May — Montreal registered nearly 37 C — and lasted until Labour Day. Hundreds of records fell from the Maritimes to Manitoba and parts of the Great Lakes were up to five degrees warmer than normal.

5. St. John's Snowmaggedon: On Jan. 17, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador was hit by a so-called "bomb cyclone" of quickly intensifying conditions. The blizzard lasted for 18 hours, dropped nearly a metre of snow and buried vehicles up to their hood ornaments. Beginning Christmas Eve, there was only one day out of 27 that it didn't snow.

6. Atlantic Hurricanes: Eight named hurricanes hit Canada in 2020, equivalent of three storm seasons in one. Although they hit southern U.S. areas harder, they still dumped rains of up to 150 millimetres as far inland as Kingston, Ont., and packed winds of up to 90 km/h.

7. Manitoba tornado: A teenage girl and boy were killed when a tornado threw their pickup truck for a kilometre. The year's most powerful twister, the deadliest in 11 years, generated winds of up to 260 km/h.

8. Cruel Spring: Winter left the Prairies slowly. Alberta recorded a temperature of -22 C at the end of March. More than 80 per cent of Canada recorded a cooler-than-average spring.

9: Tale of Two Autumns: November in Alberta and central Saskatchewan brought wind and snow, with 50 hours of it in Saskatoon and two-metre drifts in Swift Current, Sask. Meanwhile, Ontario enjoyed a warm fall. At one point, Collingwood, Ont., hit 26 C, the warmest November day in 60 years.

10. Stormy August long weekend: Parts of Alberta and Ontario had more than their share of rain. Tropical moisture brought up to 70 millimetres of rain to the Toronto area, while parts of Alberta were battered with 100-km/h winds and hail that left behind 4,000 insurance claims and $55 million in property loss.

Source: Environment Canada

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2020

The Canadian Press