From dangerous wildfires, to what seemed like constant bouts of flash flooding – the list of wild weather moments in Alberta is pretty long.
The Prairie and Arctic Storm Prediction Centre of Environment Canada said “the 2016 summer severe weather season was very active, and was longer than average.”
Across the Prairie provinces, there are about 3,036 severe weather warnings on average each year. This year, they issued 685 more than average.
Weather warnings are often issued with the help of reports from the public.
In 2016, there were almost three times the normal amount of reports of severe hail in Alberta. Tornadoes saw a more typical number with 14 reported twisters in 2016, compared to the 30-year average of 15 per year.
Alberta’s wildfire season started early – and ferociously. A mid-April grass fire in St. Albert trapped a fire fighter in between a fire gust-nado and the Sturgeon River.
“As it hit me I could feel the heat impinging on my shoulders,” firefighter Vincent Pashko said.
The video was shocking, and it was easy to understand why Pashko decided to escape into the river. The scorched equipment he left behind was a reminder of how lucky he was.
Unfortunately, that grass fire was just a precursor to the weeks ahead, as things became more desperate in May.
They called the Fort McMurray wildfire ‘the beast’. It was a fire so large, and so powerful it created its own weather systems including fire gust-nados, and extreme wind.
Over 600,000 hectares of wild land burned in Alberta this year, almost twice the five-year average.
In June and July, we saw a very different type of threat.
on June 30th, a funnel cloud hung over the Ponoka Stampede as thousands of campers and spectators watched – completely unprotected.
“Do I evacuate, do I not evacuate, what do we do? Do we shelter? I’m concerned,” Ponoka Stampede emergency management coordinator Ted Dillon recalled, as he watched the funnel cloud get closer to the ground.
Millions of dollars worth of competitive livestock were also left exposed. “I’m thinking there’s 4,000 head of livestock. I’m concerned about them too. They’re also lives,” Dillon said.
The Ponoka tornado was the first of four tornadoes in as many days across Alberta.
Flash flooding due to heavy hail and rain was also a common scene in 2016.
It happened several times in the Calgary area, and once in the Edmonton area as well – stranding drivers on Whitemud Drive.
Even northern Alberta wasn’t immune to quickly rising water. The town of Westlock was inundated by rain water, and residents were seen canoeing in a parking lot.
And the streets of battered Fort McMurray filled in a painfully ironic fashion.
Sometimes the most awe-inspiring weather events were the ones that caused no damage at all.
A water spout on the waters of Cold Lake both amazed and terrified residents. A massive low pressure system was churning over most of Alberta at the time – and cold core funnel clouds like this were in the forecast.
Lastly, on numerous occasions our night skies came to life.
The auroa displays on Mothers Day and during the Perseids meteor shower were just two of the phenomenal shows of Northern Lights.