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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Canada sees lowest daily coronavirus death toll in 2 months, 759 new cases – Globalnews.ca
The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed 31 more lives across Canada, yet the number represents the lowest daily death toll in two months.
Monday also saw just 759 new confirmed infections across only six provinces — nearly matching Sunday’s number of new cases and marking a full week with numbers below 1,000.
Canada has now seen 91,694 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Of those, 7,326 people have died and 49,739 patients have since recovered from the illness.
The last day the country saw a death toll as low as Monday’s was on April 2, when 27 people died. The number of new deaths has trended downward since Saturday, after weeks that saw an average of 100 people and more dying daily.
While the number of new cases has been trending downward since the beginning of May, the past week has seen a sharper decline since May 26, when fewer than 1,000 infections were confirmed for the first time since March 29.
Monday saw Ontario, with 404 new cases, surpass the total reported by Quebec at 295. The last time that happened was on March 22, as Quebec has regularly topped the country in new infections — often by wide margins.
Yet both provinces recorded their lowest death tolls in weeks: Quebec saw 20 more deaths, while in Ontario, 10 people died over the past 24 hours.
Nova Scotia was the only province in Atlantic Canada to report any cases Monday, and only saw one new infection.
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau calls for more ‘granularity’ on COVID-19 data
In the west, Alberta announced 34 more cases, while British Columbia recorded 24 new cases — representing numbers over the past 48 hours — and one additional death. Saskatchewan also reported a new case while announcing a previously-reported case had come back negative after retesting.
Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick reported no new cases after seeing upticks in recent days. Prince Edward Island and the three northern territories have gone several weeks without new cases.
Every province and territory has now relaxed some physical distancing and economic shutdown measures, with an eye towards reopening businesses and public spaces.
The federal government is now setting its sights on contact tracing and supporting municipalities and provinces. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday said Ottawa is rushing $2.2 billion in expected infrastructure funding to Canada’s cities.
Worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 6.25 million people and killed over 375,000 people. The United States remains the country with the most confirmed cases, at 1.8 million, while its death toll of 105,000 is also the highest globally.
Canada is currently the 14th most infected country in the world based solely on the number of cases confirmed, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Trudeau says anti-black racism is alive in Canada and 'we need to be better' – CBC.ca
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed today to do more to end anti-black racism in Canada after days of massive street protests in U.S. and Canadian cities against police brutality.
Trudeau said racism is not a uniquely American problem and more must be done in Canada to address systemic inequalities that have long plagued black and Indigenous communities.
“We need to be better in Canada. Even though we’ve made strides forward in the fight against racism and discrimination, racism still exists in Canada,” he said. “To young black Canadians, I hear you when you say you are anxious and angry.”
He said his government has funded black community groups, supported anti-racism programming and bolstered the collection of racial data at Statistics Canada to fight against discrimination, but he promised to do more.
Watch: Justin Trudeau addresses anti-black racism
Protests have erupted in major North American cities in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
Floyd, 46, died a week ago after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for just over eight minutes. His death was caught on video and swiftly went viral around the world.
All four responding officers were fired. The officer who pinned Floyd to the ground, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the video of George Floyd’s death “chilling” and “painful” and called on Canadians to channel the anger they feel over his death into action against injustice here in Canada.
Singh said Canadian police need more “de-escalation” training so routine police stops don’t turn deadly for racialized Canadians.
Singh started his political career in provincial politics and led a fight against the police policy of random street stops of minorities, known as ‘carding’.
“We need to tackle the injustice in the criminal justice system — the over-policing of black bodies and black lives,” he said.
Watch: Jagmeet Singh calls for criminal justice reform
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he was “heartbroken” to see the video of Floyd’s death.
“No one should ever feel unsafe around police officers who must uphold the law for all, or feel unsafe because of the colour of their skin. We all have a responsibility to fight anti-black racism,” he said.
Watch: Andrew Scheer says he’s ‘heartbroken’
Some of the protests demanding fair treatment from police have turned violent. A number of cities have been hit by looting and rioting.
In Montreal Sunday night, vandals broke into a music store and stole guitars, while others defaced buildings with graffiti.
Trudeau condemned the violence, saying it distracts from calls for an end to institutional racism.
“They do not represent the peaceful protesters who are standing up for very real issues in Canada,” he said.
Asked whether his own history of wearing blackface diminishes his ability to provide moral leadership on the problem of anti-black racism, Trudeau said he has “spoken many times about how deeply I regret my actions hurt many, many people.”
“We need to focus on doing better every single day, regardless of what we did or hadn’t done in our past,” he added.
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-Canadian, said in a tweet Sunday that he has “heard from people who have said that we should not worry about what is happening in the U.S. because that is not our problem.”
But he said racism is “a lived reality for black Canadians,” and he asked other Canadians to “step up” and “raise your voices and ensure that real inclusion accompanies the diversity of our country.”
He said black Canadians are disproportionately followed in stores by shop owners fearing theft, while black drivers have every reason to be anxious when they’re pulled over by a police officer.
“Check the unconscious bias around you and within you,” Hussen said.
That tweet received an angry response from Ed Ammar, a former chairperson of Alberta’s United Conservative Party, who tweeted at Hussen: “Don’t bring this to Canada you f—ing loser.”
Tweeting a video of the destruction in Montreal, Ammar, a Lebanese-Canadian immigrant, said: “Don’t bring what’s happening in the U.S. across the borders.”
Hussen addressed Ammar’s comments in an interview with CBC News Monday. “I publicly invite Mr. Ammar to call me,” he said.
Strange symptoms, flare-ups, weeks-long illnesses for some COVID-19 survivors – CBC.ca
Chandra Pasma thought it was strange when she started feeling a burning sensation in her neck and ear canal.
It was March 16, just days after COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic, and the 40-year-old Ottawa resident knew people were being infected across the country. But since her symptoms weren’t among those listed for the virus, she didn’t think much of it.
Then every single member of Pasma’s household started falling ill.
First it was her husband, 44-year-old Matt Helleman, who suddenly felt exhausted. Just days later, the couple’s three children — seven-year-old twins and a nine-year-old daughter — started experiencing fevers, sore throats, and fatigue. And around the same time, Pasma’s own symptoms ramped up into chest pain and a cough.
“I thought, oh crap,” she recalls. “This is COVID.”
Like many people with milder forms of the illness, the whole family hunkered down, hoping to get better over a couple weeks at home — not knowing it would mark the start of a months-long recovery, with none of the family members feeling back to normal even now, more than 10 weeks later.
So far, at least 90,000 Canadians have been infected with COVID-19. In some cases, the illness leads to a stay in intensive care or even causes death, with roughly 7,000 people dying to date.
But in most other instances, those suffering from less-severe forms do recover outside the health-care system. What’s growing clear, both patients and clinicians agree, is that some of those people wind up facing a long, rocky road to recovery.
‘Constant cycle’ of new symptoms
A few months back, as the little-understood virus was first spreading around the world, health officials initially described it as a respiratory illness, even weaving that piece into its official name: SARS-CoV-2, referring to “severe acute respiratory syndrome.”
Since then, evidence and patient stories have emerged suggesting it actually impacts various parts of the body.
One recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, for instance, determined that changes to someone’s ability to taste and smell are likely a common feature of infection — a symptom first noticed anecdotally by doctors around the world.
Similarly, early notions of a roughly two-week recovery period for mild cases — outlined in a February review of preliminary Chinese data from the World Health Organization — have been questioned by people who say their less-severe illnesses are still taking weeks, if not months, to fully clear up.
Pasma first realized her family wasn’t alone after joining a COVID-19 support group called Body Politic on Slack, an online communication platform. The group now includes more than 4,000 people.
There, she met other global COVID-19 sufferers who were also documenting weeks-long illnesses with a strange mix of symptoms.
In Pasma’s home, multiple family members wound up having gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and diarrhea, while she experienced inflammation in between her lungs and chest wall. Then, weeks later, a chicken pox-like rash broke out on her stomach and upper thigh.
“It just went on like that: A constant cycle of new symptoms developing,” Pasma said. “One symptom would get better, and I’d start to feel optimistic I was through it. Then something new would set in — something totally random and strange.”
She isn’t sure where she caught the illness, but said it may have been during one of two business trips to Toronto for her job as a researcher at the Canadian Union of Public Employees in the weeks before her symptoms started.
Like many Canadians early in the pandemic, she wasn’t told to get tested by her family physician, who instead encouraged her to just stay at home.
It’s an experienced echoed by others, who’ve reported bouts of illness but no positive test result to record their experience as a confirmed case of COVID-19 — an issue more common when testing guidelines in many places like Ontario were initially tied to travel abroad, which now represents the transmission source for less than six per cent of all confirmed cases to date in the province.
Test came back negative
Some now question how many cases are flying under the radar, amid additional concerns over false negatives from COVID-19 tests, which detect the active virus circulating in someone’s body, and a lack of access to antibody testing to see if someone previously had the virus, which wasn’t approved for use in Canada until May and isn’t widely available.
For Pasma, it wasn’t until after her symptoms worsened, flaring up a previous bout of pneumonia, that she went to a local hospital and got tested.
The test came back negative. Pasma believes that’s because it came so late in her illness — not that she wasn’t infected.
“There seems to be zero followup,” she said. “I don’t know if there would be more follow up if we were acknowledged cases.”
Pasma also worries both the media and medical community have painted COVID-19 as far too binary, either on or off.
“You get better in two weeks, or you die,” she said. “There’s no talk at all about what happens to the people who do not get better in two weeks.”
600+ people surveyed about symptoms
Hannah Wei, a Toronto-based design and qualitative researcher who helped launch the Slack channel where COVID-positive people are swapping recovery stories, said most people are lacking “clarity” about how COVID-19 plays out beyond the most critical cases.
Like Pasma, Wei also believes she got the illness back in March, likely after travelling abroad to Taiwan. But she didn’t get tested after she returned to Canada because she said hospital staff in Vancouver, where she was staying for a client meeting, told her they were short on nasal swabs.
Wei said she was sent back to her Airbnb room with just a sheet of paper featuring COVID-19 information from the hospital’s website. She wound up stuck there with no followup until she tested negative weeks later before finally flying back home to Toronto.
“There’s no centralized way to track and monitor how we’re all doing,” she said.
To give sufferers more insight into the spectrum of symptoms and recovery time frames, Wei’s team surveyed around 640 people from both their online channel, which is primarily younger adult COVID-19 sufferers, and other social media platforms.
Many respondents shared similar experiences of weeks-long recoveries, with some stretching beyond a month, and featuring a range of symptoms — including respiratory issues, gastrointestinal problems, and sometimes neurological symptoms like dizziness, trouble concentrating, insomnia, or just a general feeling of “brain fog.”
“When we ran the survey, people were on, on average, their 40th day,” Wei said. “A lot of these people, they’re getting to the point where they’re not quite recovering, but they’re not severely sick in the bed either. They just can’t get back to their normal life.”
Patients calling for more followup
Wei and Pasma both say the medical community needs to focus more on these under-the-radar patients.
Ontario family physicians who spoke to CBC News say thanks to the rise of telemedicine, it’s easier to keep in touch with COVID-19 patients who don’t need hospital care. Still, treating them remains a challenge given the wide range of symptoms and length of illness.
It’s a mixed bag, according to Markham-based family physician Allan Grill.
“You can have patients with mild symptoms that recover in a few days, like less than a week,” said Grill, who is chief of family medicine at Markham Stouffville Hospital and lead physician at the Markham family health team.
“You can have other people where the symptoms last two or three weeks.”
WATCH | Physical distancing advice for those who have recovered from COVID-19:
Pasma said the digital divide between patients and care providers can leave people feeling isolated as they recover at home.
As she and her family slowly get their lives back, she’s hoping more physicians grow aware of the challenging recovery process many COVID-19 sufferers are experiencing — so they can give newly diagnosed patients a heads up on what to expect, and help them manage the possible weeks ahead.
“Just because you’re well and don’t die from pneumonia doesn’t mean you won’t spend three or four months of your life trying to recover from this virus,” she said.
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