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



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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Eyes now on Canadian police after Trudeau demands transport blockades torn down – Global News



All eyes are on Canadian police forces now that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said barricades on rail lines and other major transportation routes must come down.

A Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief says that won’t happen unless and until the Mounties get off their traditional territory in northern British Columbia and Coast GasLink halts construction on a natural-gas pipeline that crosses their land.

Chief Woos of the Grizzly House says Indigenous leadership will only begin negotiating with the Canadian government under those same conditions. But Trudeau says injunctions ordering the rail lines be cleared must be obeyed and the law must be enforced.

Trudeau says Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades ‘need to come down now’

The blockades are responses by Indigenous people and supporters to a move by the RCMP to clear protesters who had been blocking access to the pipeline worksite.

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Protesters who’d been blockading a CN Rail line in St-Lambert, Que., south of Montreal since Wednesday cleared out Friday night shortly after riot police arrived on scene ready to enforce an injunction to clear the tracks. But the blockade of a critical east-west rail line on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in eastern Ontario remains in place — and more protests are planned for March 20 along the borders of Manitoba.

Wet’suwet’en chiefs meet with Mohawks

Wet’suwet’en chiefs meet with Mohawks

Ontario Provincial Police say they don’t intend to break up the Tyendinaga protest in the immediate future, however, Trudeau says the inconvenience to Canadians has gone on long enough, given that the blockades have halted rail lines for weeks.

“Let us be clear: all Canadians are paying the price. Some people can’t get to work, others have lost their jobs,” he told a news conference yesterday. “Essential goods ? cannot get where they need to go.”

But Woos said the inconvenience to Canadians pales in comparison to what the Wet’suwet’en people have experienced.

Planned meeting between feds, Wet’suwet’en now delayed due to Trudeau’s comments: chief

“There is a difference between inconvenience and injustice — total difference. Don’t confuse one with the other,” he said after meeting with Mohawk allies on Tyendinaga territory.

He noted that Wet’suwet’en land was never surrendered to the Canadian government in any treaties, so RCMP presence there amounts to an occupation.

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On Thursday, the RCMP in B.C. sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, telling them the force intends to move its officers off the access road and station them instead in the nearby town of Houston.

Trudeau: Blockades must now come down

Trudeau: Blockades must now come down

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he believes this move meets the original conditions set by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, but Woos said it doesn’t go far enough.

“Out means out,” Woos said.

In addition to tension with the First Nations, Trudeau is also experiencing pushback from the provinces.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a statement Friday saying “enough is enough.”

‘The impact is huge,’ says Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association of rail shutdown

“The illegal blockades must come down. This is a national emergency and innocent people from coast to coast are being hurt. The federal government must co-ordinate action to take down these illegal blockades across the country.”

Alberta’s Jason Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister, said the barricades are scaring away investment and giving the impression that Canada can’t operate as a modern democratic country.

And Quebec Premier Francois Legault warned on Thursday that provincial police would dismantle the blockade near Montreal as soon as an injunction was granted.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press

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What Canada's latest coronavirus case tells us about the evolution of the outbreak – CBC.ca



This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.

As new outbreaks of coronavirus continue to appear in countries outside of China, experts are now recalculating the risk of the virus and our ability to contain it worldwide.

Until now, the focus of containing the coronavirus illness, known as COVID-19, has centred on China. 

Millions remain under quarantine in China’s central Hubei province, where the outbreak began, and travel restrictions are still in place throughout the affected region. 

But outbreaks have since emerged in South Korea, Italy and Iran. Infectious disease physicians say the rapid spread of coronavirus cases outside of China could signal a game changer in the response to the global outbreak. 

“Globally, we will not be able to contain the spread of this virus. We can slow it down, but we can’t stop it,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital who worked on the front lines of the SARS epidemic in 2003.

“The number of countries with cases is going to continue to increase.” 

The WHO is increasingly concerned about COVID-19 outside China, especially in South Korea and Iran. 2:51

Officials are also concerned about the number of cases with “no clear epidemiological link,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday, such as travel history to China or contact with a known confirmed case. 

He said while the number of cases outside of China remains small, they are “worrisome.”

“It’s in our hands now,” Tedros said. “If we do well within the narrowing window of opportunity, we can avert any serious crisis. If we squander the opportunity, then there will be a serious problem on our hands.”

1st case in Canada with no connection to China

Canada’s ninth presumptive case of coronavirus is a woman in her 30s who recently travelled to Iran and is now recovering at home in British Columbia. 

Health officials were surprised to learn she had not travelled to China or any of its neighbouring countries, and have classified the case as a “sentinel event” — one that originated from a region that is completely unexpected. 

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said they are investigating where the woman may have contracted the virus, working alongside the Public Health Agency of Canada. The woman had a travelling companion, was visiting family and is now in isolation at home.

“Until very recently, we didn’t consider Iran as a place of transmission of COVID-19,” Henry said in an interview. “So that set off quite a number of warning bells for us.” 

Henry said the investigation continues into where the woman travelled, but she hadn’t been to the city of Qom, where a handful of cases have been recorded. “She did report at the airport [in Tehran] that there were quite a lot of people who were sick and who were wearing masks,” she said.

The answers are important to public health measures aimed at containing the virus, such as whether Canada should expand its border-screening questionnaires for travellers from places beyond the epicentre in China’s Hubei province.

An Iranian man wearing a protective mask walks at Grand Bazaar in Tehran on Thursday. (Nazanin Tabatabaee/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

Henry said the exportation of a case from a country like Iran, which hasn’t previously reported a lot of infections, also has parallels with the start of the epidemic in China. 

“The first exported cases from China were similar,” she said, “and essentially an indication that there may be more cases than were recognized.”

If it is confirmed the traveller was infected in Iran, then it likely means there’s more than a handful of cases there, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician at Toronto General Hospital who is researching the outbreak.

“The real question is how much disease burden is in Iran and do they have the capacity to really get this under control,” he said. “We might be inching toward this situation where this infection is not contained and we have to really be prepared for a possible scenario where there’s more widespread transmission throughout the world.” 

‘Alarming numbers’ in South Korea 

South Korea is also seeing a surge in new cases — reportedly linked to what authorities call a “super-spreading event” at a church congregation where the majority of infections originated.

“What we’re hearing out of South Korea is starting to sound like alarming numbers,” said Bogoch. “But South Korea has a pretty robust medical system and a fantastic public health infrastructure.” 

Bogoch said South Korea’s health-care system was tested significantly with an epidemic of MERS in 2015, much like Toronto was with SARS in 2003. 

“We learned incredible lessons from SARS that are really implemented to this day that are helping us cope with this COVID-19 epidemic,” he said. 

“Hopefully Korea has really learned some lessons from their MERS epidemic a few years ago to really help them cope with this.” 

People wearing masks wait for a signal at a crosswalk in central Daegu, South Korea on Friday. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

While managing ill patients and preventing hospital outbreaks are key to a country’s health-care infrastructure, McGeer said that infrastructure may have little to do with preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is not about how strong your health-care system is,” she said. “They may well be able to identify chains of transmission and quarantine and isolate people. But the larger the number of cases, the more difficult it becomes.” 

In northern Italy, officials shut down schools and public events after a cluster of 16 cases and one death were announced Friday. Five of those cases were identified as health workers.

WHO officials have pushed for countries to be transparent about its cases, so resources can be shifted to where the need is greatest.

For WHO, sub-Saharan Africa was a concern, given the degree of travel between China and Africa and limited ability to test for the virus in many African countries.

Stephen Hoption Cann, an epidemiologist at the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia, said if COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, there is the possibility of the virus becoming endemic — or  something that re-emerges on a seasonal basis. 

“Are we going to be able to contain this virus and prevent it from spreading into the next season?” he said. “It’s really hard to say now; it’s looking like there’s a possibility that we will be seeing it back again next winter.” 

To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

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Canadian excited for ‘normal meals’ after being released from coronavirus quarantine – Global News



After 14 long days locked in isolation over coronavirus fears, there was only one thing on Christopher Lan’s mind when he got out — good food.

“On my way here I saw a fast-food restaurant, a McDonald’s,” he said. “When I saw that, I thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to have a normal meal very soon.’”

Lan is among 213 Canadians and accompanying family members who were flown out of Wuhan, China — the epicentre of the outbreak — by the Canadian and American governments on Feb. 7.

Flight carrying Canadians from Japanese cruise ship riddled with COVID-19 lands at CFB Trenton

For the past two weeks, they’ve called CFB Trenton in southern Ontario home. The evacuees, who range from couples to newlyweds and families with young children, each had to complete two weeks in quarantine to be cleared of the virus, COVID-19, before they could be released on Friday.

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At no point during their stay did any of the evacuees at the base show any symptoms, government officials said.

The government offered the evacuees help with their travel from Trenton, but all were ultimately expected to make their own ways home.

Lan and his wife decided to rent a car at a dealership in Trenton in order to get back to their home in Orleans, Ont.

Coronavirus outbreak: Plane carrying Canadians from Diamond Princess cruise lands at CFB Trenton

Coronavirus outbreak: Plane carrying Canadians from Diamond Princess cruise lands at CFB Trenton

He said they travelled to China for Chinese New Year. His son is newly married, he said, and together they went to visit family in a town about 300 kilometres away from Wuhan.

Initially, the outbreak didn’t seem like a very big deal to Lan, but he said the situation developed quickly.

Lan, his wife and son were able to secure a spot on the Canadian flight out of Wuhan, but Lan’s son’s wife — a Chinese citizen — had to stay behind.

He said the journey from Wuhan was “kind of scary” but he felt relaxed seeing how organized things were.

Ultimately, he’s very happy to be back in Canada.

“It’s a great relief,” he said. “The feeling is amazing.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: Ottawa professor offers glimpse of life for Canadians inside CFB Trenton

Coronavirus outbreak: Ottawa professor offers glimpse of life for Canadians inside CFB Trenton

The repatriated Canadians were housed at the Yukon Lodge, a facility on the military base typically used for personnel and their family members. It resembles a hotel, with 290 rooms and basic amenities.

Prior to their arrival, members of the Canadian Red Cross filled the rooms with hygiene kits and extra blankets — items to make their stay a little homier.

Canada’s health minister to visit CFB Trenton where hundreds under quarantine

Lan said the workers, volunteers and military personnel running the quarantine were kind and organized.

The food, he said, they “got used to.”

“We really appreciate all the work the government and the Red Cross and the volunteers did to help us, because they really took a personal risk to help us,” he said.

“They didn’t want us to feel alienated or anything like that. They wore minimal protection.”

200+ Canadians begin two-week quarantine at CFB Trenton

200+ Canadians begin two-week quarantine at CFB Trenton

Meanwhile, as one quarantine comes to an end, another is just beginning.

A flight carrying 129 Canadians, this time from Japan, arrived in Trenton, Ont. on the same day. The evacuees spent nearly two weeks on a cruise ship in Yokohama, which became a hotbed for the flu-like virus in early February.

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At least 634 of the Diamond Princess’s passengers have since tested positive for the virus, making it the largest outbreak location outside of China.

Of the 2,500 passengers, roughly 255 were Canadian. Forty-seven of those Canadians were determined to be infected with the virus and forced to stay in Japan for treatment.

Those repatriated from the ship were screened for the virus again in Trenton on Friday morning before being bussed to Cornwall, Ont. where they will spend two weeks in quarantine at the Nav Centre.

— With files from Global News’ Morganne Campbell, Sean Boynton and The Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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