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

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
Terrace city council approves inland port OCP amendments

Project still requires zoning bylaw, development permit to continue

This copper frog pendant was made by Jamika Aksidan, a young Nisga’a artist who was recently recognized with an award for her work. (Photo courtesy Nisga’a Museum)
Nisga’a youth artist wins award

Award includes $500, exhibition in Nisga’a Museum

A BC Hydro outage is affecting nearly 4000 customers in Kitimat. The cause of the outage is under investigation. (Screenshot/BC Hydro Outage Map)
Cable fault responsible for Kitimat power outage, BC Hydro says

At its peak, the BC Hydro power outage affected near 4,000 customers

Graph showing the 2020 passenger totals at the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace. (Submitted/Northwest Regional Airport)
New year brings an end to a turbulent 2020 at Northwest Regional Airport

Passenger totals half of what they were in 2019

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Most Read