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From floods to fires to weird Arctic weather, Environment Canada releases top 10 weather stories of 2019 – CBC.ca

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As Environment and Climate Change Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips often says: “There’s never a shortage of weather stories in Canada.”

Once again, from coast to coast to coast, 2019 proved to be another record weather year for Canada.

Here are the top 10 weather events for Canada in 2019, compiled by Phillips.

1. Another record-setting Ottawa River flood

In the No. 1 spot is the spring flooding of the Ottawa River.

It was a perfect set-up along the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers: Temperatures were below normal for seven straight months — from October 2018 to April 2019 — meaning the ground never experienced the gradual thaw that often comes with spring, nor could it absorb any falling rain. Upstream, the heavy snowpack was unable to thaw, and the region experienced several rounds of heavy rains over five weeks. 

Pointe-Gatineau, Que., near the meeting point of the Ottawa and Gatineau rivers, on April 29, 2019. (Albert Leung/CBC)

On May 1, the Ottawa River swelled, breaking the previous record in 2017. More than 6,000 residents were flooded out of their homes in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., and hundreds more from Pembroke, Ont. to Sherbrooke, Que. not to mention the flooding of precious farmland. As a result, two people died. 

2. Active hurricane season as predicted

The 2019 hurricane season was a particularly active one, just as the Canadian Hurricane Centre and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration had both forecast

Post-tropical storm Erin was the first to reach Canadian shores, on Aug. 29. It triggered flash flooding, though it was a bit of a blessing to farmers who had endured a dry summer until then.

A crane on South Park St. in Halifax toppled onto a building under construction after Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Nova Scotia. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

But it was Dorian that will be most remembered. The powerful Category 5 hurricane produced winds of 300 km/h over the Bahamas and lingered, almost at a standstill, for 24 hours. Eventually, it made its way to Nova Scotia, transitioning to a post-tropical storm with winds of 155 km/h. It knocked out power to nearly half a million people across Atlantic Canada. The Insurance Board of Canada estimated that Dorian caused $140 million to insured property, with most of it in Nova Scotia.

3. (S)no-good Prairie fall

The West is no stranger to early snowfalls, but 2019 turned out to be a dinger. At the end of September, Calgary experienced a harsh, early, snowy surprise. Over four days, 32 cm fell in the city, the greatest depth of snow left on the ground in 65 years.

City crews in Winnipeg tackle a downed tree following a spring snowstorm. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Southern B.C. wasn’t left out of the snowy mess; 35 to 50 cm of snow was dumped across many mountain passes. And a few weeks later, it was Manitoba’s turn. From Brandon to Winnipeg, snow blanketed the area. States of emergency were declared in 11 communities and more than 6,000 people were evacuated from First Nations communities.  

4. A brutal FFFFebruary in Canada

February is often thought of as the harshest month of winter, and 2019 certainly lived up to that expectation.

Though the planet was experiencing an El Niño event — a warming in a region of the Pacific that typically brings milder weather to parts of Canada — the Arctic air took an icy grip on the country and wouldn’t let go.

A person walks a dog as heavy snow falls in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

In B.C., along the coast, reaching into the Interior, it was 9 C below normal. In Calgary, February was the coldest month in 83 years. And southern Alberta could just forget about the Chinook: in 2019 it was 14 C colder than normal in the region.

Meanwhile, Toronto received a year’s worth of snow in January and February alone. And Atlantic Canada? The region experienced its coldest February in 25 years.

5. Record heat continues in Arctic

Unfortunately, nothing changed in the Arctic. 

Once again, 2019 proved to be another record warm year. In September, the Arctic sea ice reached its yearly minimum at 4.15 million square km, the second-lowest on record, tied with 2007 and 2016.

The community of Apex is seen from Iqaluit on Friday, Aug. 2. Once again, the Arctic continued to warm during 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“The North is the most important story,” Phillips said. “It will be the most important story of the century.”

And it wasn’t just the climate — it was the weather itself, he said.

On June 2, an EF-1 tornado was spotted near Fort Smith, N.W.T., just the fourth confirmed north of 60 degrees latitude in Canada. In mid-July the Canadian Forces Station in Alert, Nunavut, recorded a searing temperature of 21 C — 14 C warmer than average. And on Aug. 10,  there were several lightning strikes within 500 km of the North Pole, a true rarity indeed.

6. Too dry early, too wet later on the Prairies

While weather may just be an inconvenience to most people, for farmers it can mean the difference between putting food on the table or not.

And in the Prairies, farmers had to deal with some truly inconsistent weather in 2019.

Even before the growing season began, farmers struggled with some of the driest conditions since record-keeping began 133 years ago. Edmonton had its driest spring on record, Regina had its driest March and Winnipeg its driest first half of the year with a measly 91 mm of precipitation (its average is 235 mm from January to June).

But once the rains started, they didn’t stop.

Weather played havoc with farmers in the Prairies during the spring 2019, with many losing crops. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Edmonton recorded 55 days of rain through June to August, tying for the most number of days since 1881. And it wasn’t just the rain: Alberta and Saskatchewan had an early, mid-September snowfall with more of the same — including rain — in October. As a result, many farmers lost large amounts of their crops.

7. How the Grinch stole…Halloween?

Sadly, instead of a treat, many children this Halloween received a nasty trick.

Unfortunately, for kids in the East, it was donning a snowsuit, carrying an umbrella or, well, no Halloween at all.

It was wet and windy in southern Ontario: the town of Stratford received the most with 109 mm of rain. In Port Colborne, winds topped 129 km/h. 

Halloween played a wet and windy trick on many children in Canada’s east in 2019. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Meanwhile, in Chibougamau, Que., 30 cm of snow fell. And there was snow and rain across Newfoundland. 

But it was a delayed Halloween for 20 municipalities across Quebec, including Montreal, as the festivities were postponed by a day.

8. Spring missing in the East

Spring means longer days, the sight of green grass, budding trees and warmer weather. But that just wasn’t the case in much of Canada in 2019. And once again, it was the dreaded Polar Vortex who squelched our fun.

Across the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Basin, it was the coldest spring in 22 years. By the end of May, less than five per cent of Ontario farmers’ crops had been planted. 

Terry Ferguson, right, gets help from friend Peter McMaster to stack sandbags around his Bay Street home in an attempt to keep out the flood waters of the St. John River in Saint John, N.B., on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (Stephen MacGillivray/Canadian Press)

In April, the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia had endured almost triple the month’s rainfall with some of the coldest soil temperatures in two decades.

In New Brunswick, Moncton’s average May temperature was almost three degrees colder than average. And once again, farmers felt the crunch across the region.

9. Saint John River floods again

Persistent rain and snow and a lack of thaw was behind the flooding of New Brunswick’s Saint John River once again.

At the New Brunswick-Maine border, the river had its largest stream flow in 67 years. In Fredericton, the river reached its peak at 8.37 metres, breaking 2018’s record, and coming in second highest after 1973.

Spring flowers had a tough job ahead of them as cold weather descended across the east, stretching into Atlantic Canada. (CBC)

It was particularly difficult for residents as they desperately tried to protect their property. Canada’s military was eventually called in to assist after 1,500 people were evacuated. Ultimately, 16,000 homes and buildings were damaged by floodwaters with 145 roads were shut down. 

And while the province is no stranger to floods, Phillips points out that the last two floods — both the 2018 and 2019 ones — were considered to be once-in-a-hundred-year floods. However, the past year saw less of an impact than the year previous.

“There are lessons to be learned from some of these [stories], too, that we realize that the 100-year storm is becoming the 10-year storm,” Phillips said. “So we need to do things differently. We just can’t sit there and [say] ‘Oh,well Mother Nature is going to get us.’ We need to do something about it.”

10. Fewer fires, more burning

After an intense fire season in 2018, it was a fairly quiet fire season in 2019, with fires down 40 per cent across the country.

Roughly 422,000 lightning strikes were recorded in B.C. — which experienced its worst season in history in 2018 — far surpassing the average of 266,000. But the good thing is, it was accompanied by wet weather. 

Though there were fewer fires than in 2018, the 2019 season was still a memorable one for Alberta and Ontario. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But it was Alberta that broke from the trend, where fires consumed an area roughly 14 times that of the average. It was the second-worst season on record. By the end of May, 10,000 people had been evacuated from their homes.

Ontario also experienced severe forest fires. In northwestern Ontario, forest fires caused poor air quality in several First Nation communities for almost two weeks, resulting in 2,500 residents being evacuated. 

In the end

Phillips said there’s a message to be taken away from these weather events.

“There’s no region that I would say had the worst weather,” said Phillips. “It’s not new weather, though … it’s the same old weather that our grandparents talked about, but it’s just that the statistics are different: the frequency, the intensity, the out of season, out of place, anything like that that just seems to make it different than it was.”

And he reminds Canadians: “Mother Nature holds all the trump cards.”

Here is Phillips’ complete list of Top 10 Weather Stories of 2019 including a breakdown for regions across the country. 

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COVID-19 worsening Canadian students' diets, inactivity, alcohol consumption: study – CTV News

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TORONTO —
A new Canadian study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased unhealthy behaviour in post-secondary students.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, reported that isolation brought on by the novel coronavirus has led to a “significant worsening of already poor dietary habits, low activity levels, sedentary behaviour, and high alcohol consumption among university students.”

Nutrition professor and lead author of the study, Gordon Zello, said in a press release that the findings could be used to help students maintain healthy behaviours going forward.

“Our findings are important because university students, especially those most vulnerable for poor nutrition and sedentary behaviour, should be targeted for interventions aimed at maintaining and improving physical activity and dietary practices during this pandemic and beyond,” Zello said.

Researchers noted the study is the first to assess “changes in students’ dietary intake, physical activity, and sedentary behaviour” amid COVID-19.

The findings were published Friday in the peer-reviewed medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

The study looked at 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were living independently or had roommates, but were responsible for buying and preparing their own meals.

Over the course of the four-month study, the students responded to online questionnaires about their food and drink consumption, physical activity and sedentary behaviour before and during the pandemic.

The study started just as Saskatchewan was imposing COVID-19 restrictions, according to researchers. Zello said this timing ensured that details of students’ eating and activity habits prior to the pandemic and during it were “fresh” in their minds.

“With pre-pandemic research already showing university students to be a vulnerable group for inadequate diet and physical activity, the measures imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to examine further impact on their lives,” Zello said.

The study found that the students consumed less food every day during the pandemic compared to before.

Researchers say the students ate 20 per cent less meat, 44 per cent less dairy, and 45 per cent fewer vegetables as the pandemic continued.

While they drank considerably less caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, Zello said the students’ alcohol consumption “increased significantly.” He added that these dietary habits could pose serious health implications following the pandemic.

“This dietary inadequacy combined with long hours of sedentary behaviour and decreased physical activity could increase health risks in this unique population during COVID-19 confinement and once the pandemic ends,” Zello explained in the release.

The researchers behind the study noted that “several reasons” may explain the students’ dietary shift.

Zello said that public health measures implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such as reduced grocery store hours and restaurant closures, may have limited students’ shopping frequency and the availability of healthy food options.

STUDENT FITNESS

According to the study, previous research has shown that psychological distress brought on by the coronavirus has been linked to “poor diet quality, particularly increased consumption of alcohol.” With that in mind, the study said that students may be eating less to counteract their lack of exercise and “increased sedentariness.”

Researchers found that only 16 per cent of the students studied were meeting Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week prior to the pandemic. They say that “further decreased” to 9.6 per cent during COVID-19.

Of those that were meeting Canadian activity guidelines before the pandemic, researchers say 90 per cent became less active.

The number of hours spent in “sedentary behaviour,” sitting or lying down with little energy expenditure, also rose by three hours to approximately 11 hours a day, according to the study.

“There’s no doubt that measures such as the closures of gyms and other recreational facilities by the universities and other private and public establishments within the province resulted in reductions in the level of physical activity,” the study said.

Researchers say another reason for the decrease in physical activity may be that many students were no longer walking to school after universities moved to remote learning formats.

The study noted that 55 per cent of students studied were employed before the pandemic, and only 49 per cent continued to be employed in the following months, adding to the overall decrease in activity.

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Sunday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

  • Pfizer says it will increase vaccine deliveries by mid-February.
  • China building isolation hospitals in Hebei province to combat increase in infections.
  • Brazilian approval of Sputnik V vaccine delayed by missing data.
  • Some health-care workers are still hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Do you have a tip or question about the pandemic? Email us at COVID@cbc.ca.

Canada has reached a grim new milestone in its fight against COVID-19, with the country’s case count surging well past 700,000, ahead of an expected reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand on Saturday said she understands Canadians’ concerns about Pfizer’s decision to delay international deliveries while it upgrades its manufacturing facility.

She said she has been in touch with the drugmaker and been assured it’s “deploying all efforts” to return to its regular delivery schedule “as soon as possible,” Anand said on Twitter. The minister said shipments for this coming week will be largely unaffected.

WATCH | CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin answers questions about strained ICUs and vaccine delays:

The CBC’S John Northcott puts your coronavirus-related questions to family physician and CBC medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin. 9:26

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics, said on Friday that Canada’s allotment of the vaccine will be reduced by 50 per cent for four weeks.

Pfizer said it hopes the upgrade will allow it to produce two billion doses per year, up from 1.3 billion doses. The company said in an email to CBC News on Saturday that it will increase its vaccine deliveries beginning the week of Feb. 15.

As of Friday night, more than half a million Canadians had received inoculations against the virus that causes COVID-19.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 12 35 p.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 707,354 cases of COVID-19, with 75,558 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 17,984.

In British Columbia, the B.C. Hotel Association said implementing an inter-provincial travel ban would decimate what’s left of the sector’s operators and urged Premier John Horgan — who sought legal advice on such an action — to pursue other options to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

WATCH | British Columbia mulls how to keep visitors out:

Frustrated by the number of non-residents ignoring stay-at-home orders and coming to British Columbia to holiday, the province is considering how to keep them out. 2:06

Alberta saw 717 new cases and 15 new deaths on Saturday.

Saskatchewan reported 270 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths

In Regina, police fined a woman $2,800 after breaking up a large gathering. Police in the city have now issued at least 10 tickets for people violating public health orders related to COVID-19.

Manitoba recorded 180 new cases and two additional deaths

The update comes one day after the provincial government asked people for their input on the possibility of lifting some pandemic restrictions next week.

Ontario reported 3,422 new cases on Sunday, after registering 3,056 new cases the previous day. Locally, there are 1,035 new cases in Toronto on Sunday, 585 in Peel Region, 254 in Windsor-Essex County, 246 in York Region and 186 in Niagara Region, Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Twitter.

Children wears face masks as they play in the snow in Ottawa on Saturday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Quebec reported 1,744 new cases on Sunday, after counting 2,225 new cases on Saturday.

In east-end Montreal, a group of protesters braved a snowstorm on Saturday to denounce the province’s COVID-19 curfew, which has been in place for a week.

The protest took place in the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and was organized by a group called “No police solution to the health crisis.” Montreal police were present at the protest and asked that everyone present wear masks and respect physical-distancing guidelines.

New Brunswick recorded 27 new cases on Saturday.

Nova Scotia added four new cases on Sunday, after reporting the same number the previous day. Last week, mandatory testing for rotational workers in the province came into effect. Workers are now required to get a test within two days of returning to Nova Scotia and again about a week later.

Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case on Sunday after seeing no new infections on Saturday.

Northwest Territories health officials are urging anyone who has been in self-isolation in Hay River or Kátł’odeeche First Nation since Jan. 1 to arrange for a COVID-19 test after wastewater testing suggested there are one or more cases in the area.

Meanwhile, officials confirmed the first positive case in Fort Liard, a hamlet nearly 545 kilometres southwest of Yellowknife.

In Nunavut, a worker at Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine gold mine, located about 25 kilometres north of Rankin Inlet, has tested positive, the company said. There have now been nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine since the start of the pandemic, an Agnico Eagle spokesperson told CBC News on Saturday via email.

What’s happening around the world

As of Sunday, more than 94.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 52.1 million of those considered recovered or resolved, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 case tracking tool. The global death toll stood at just over two million.

WATCH | WHO chief pleads for breaking of COVID-19 transmission:

As the global death toll from the coronavirus pushed past 2 million, the head of the World Health Organization urged people to use the tools they have to curb the virus and lift the burden on health workers. 1:40

Brazil‘s health regulator on Saturday said it’s seeking further data on Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine before considering its approval for emergency use.

Regulator Anvisa wants assurances on Phase 3 clinical trials and issues related to the manufacture of the vaccine by drugmaker Uniao Quimica.

Moscow has approved Sputnik V for Russian domestic use, though clinical trials there have not yet been completed.

The Brazilian regulator was expected to make a decision on Sunday about authorizing emergency use of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac and Britain’s AstraZeneca.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that despite the U.K. government’s confidence about its coronavirus vaccination plan, the public needed to stay home as the country’s health service was “on the cusp” of being overwhelmed.

Raab told broadcaster Sky News that the U.K. was a “global leader” in its vaccination rollout, and he was confident that the government’s roadmap would meet targets.

In China, officials reported 109 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, two-thirds of them in a northern province that abuts Beijing, and no deaths.

This aerial photo taken on Saturday shows construction of a centralized COVID-19 quarantine centre in Shijiazhuang, in northern Hebei province. (China News Service/AFP via Getty Images)

There were 72 new cases in Hebei province, where the government is building isolation hospitals with a total of 9,500 rooms to combat an upsurge in infections, according to the National Health Commission.

China had largely contained the virus that was first detected in the central city of Wuhan in late 2019 but has reported hundreds of new infections since December. The Health Commission on Saturday blamed them on travellers and imported goods it said brought the virus from abroad.

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Policy alignment, predictability to mark Canada-U.S. relationship under Biden, ambassador says – CBC.ca

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The shared priorities between this country and its southern neighbour — including the COVID-19 crisis, economic recovery and climate policy — will define the Canada-U.S. relationship under a Biden presidency, Canada’s ambassador to the United States says.

“I think that the Biden administration and our government have an enormous amount of policy alignment,” Kirsten Hillman said in an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live.

“And I think also that we are going to find a more predictable government to deal with and a bit more traditional relations in terms of how we deal with them,” she added.

Ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration — which Hillman will attend in person — Canada’s top diplomat in Washington said tackling the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is a chief concern.

“We are both focusing on … ensuring the safety and health of our citizens, respecting science, respecting experts, being clear and consistent in the advice that we give [and] caring about people around the world in that regard as well,” Hillman told CBC’s Chief Political Correspondent Rosemary Barton.

Getting Canada and the U.S. “back on track economically … in partnership with each other” is also a priority on the countries’ long list of mutual policies, as is climate change, Hillman said.

Trudeau, Biden have ‘very warm’ relationship

Despite their common goals, the United States that Biden will inherit is still reeling from the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol and accusations that outgoing President Donald Trump incited the attack.

“You can imagine how much [Biden’s] got on his plate with COVID and the economy and now the events of last week and the repercussions that are coming out of that,” Hillman said. “I do think that he’s been pretty clear around some of the aspects of his economic policy that are a little more protectionist than we would want to see.”

Biden’s pandemic recovery plan includes a pledge to “Buy American” — a promise to purchase, produce and develop made-in-America goods.

As for whether the relationship between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the incoming president will mirror that of Trudeau and former president Barack Obama, Hillman said such ties are forged among the myriad ways both countries “interact and work together.”

“But of course, the tone at the top matters. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. And the prime minister and president-elect Biden have a very warm and good relationship. So that is definitely going to be an asset.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, with Joe Biden, at the time U.S. vice-president, arrive at a state dinner in Ottawa on Dec. 8, 2016. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Fostering connections during last 4 years

A change in administration also doesn’t mean the connections Canada formed over the past four years were all for naught. 

“We always work really hard to foster strong relations on the Hill, in particular in the Senate and in the House, because in the system of governance here … it’s a co-equal branch of government that has an awful lot of authority over issues that matter a lot to Canada,” Hillman said.

The ambassador pointed to the renegotiated NAFTA deal as an example of those relationships in action.

“We went across the nation, and it was very healthy for the Canada-U.S. relationship, that activity. It was very healthy for us to remind each other of the degree to which we are integrated, the degree to which we are mutually supportive.”

Hillman said she’s in talks with Biden’s transition team but noted that incoming nominees and appointees to the White House are not engaging directly with foreign governments until a new president is sworn in.

“If we look at the slate of appointees and nominees that are coming [into] the Biden administration, many, many of them are well known to Canada and really good friends of Canada,” she said. “So that is also a strong reason for optimism.”

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