Thursday, 3 January 2013

#6 - Top Ten Weather Events of 2012 in the Winnipeg Area

Drought Intensifies as Summer Ends

Bone-dry conditions in late September
     The droughty-weather pattern of the summer persisted and intensified into September. A persistent upper ridge in western Canada blocked moisture-laden systems from the Pacific from moving through the southern Prairies. The jet stream steered systems mainly through the northern Prairies, bypassing us here in the south. In addition, lower dewpoints, due to the time of year, halted convective events which only amplified the dryness. This also explained why Saskatchewan and Alberta had made a dramatic turn to drought after an extremely wet summer loaded with convective events.

     Here in Winnipeg, only 6.5 mm of rain fell between Aug 16 and Oct 3, a full 49-day period. Similar amounts fell in almost all of southern Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta.

     With only 4.0 mm of rainfall in September, it was the 2nd driest September on record since 1872 in Winnipeg. This is only 8% of our normal 47.4 mm of rainfall for the month (1981-2010 normal).

Top 5 driest Septembers in Winnipeg since 1872:

1.  1948      1.3 mm
2.  2012      4.0 mm
3.  1938      6.1 mm
4.  1897      8.6 mm
5.  1976      9.9 mm

     That also made September 2012 the 37th driest month ever (out of 1682 months of precip. data). Only 2.2% of all the months of precipitation data have been as dry or drier.

Record dry conditions through much of SE SK and southern MB in September - Click to enlarge image

      Also being the 4th consecutive drier than normal month in Winnipeg, soils were bone-dry. Lawns were yellow and cracking, water levels on rivers were getting quite low and there was no standing water to be seen anywhere. Similar conditions south of the border prompted the US Drought Monitor to classify the RRV (on the US side) in extreme drought in their September 25 update, which is the second worst category. 

     Dry soil conditions caused shifting underground. As a result, there were many water pipe breaks in September, flooding the areas affected.

Pic by CBC Manitoba
     As expected when conditions are this dry, fires were an issue once again. A return to summer-like warmth was felt during the last few days of September and to start October. Unfortunately, this warmth was accompanied by some very strong winds on Sep 30 and Oct 2 creating perfect conditions for numerous fires to spark. As a result, the province cancelled all burning permits in western, central and eastern areas of Manitoba and would not issue new permits.

     On Sep 30, large wildfires were sparked near Souris, Dominion City and St. Laurent. Up to 30 fire departments, dozens of firefighters and water bombers fought the flames. In Winnipeg, a grassfire was sparked in Charleswood near Loudoun Road. 8 fire trucks were dispatched to battle the flames. About 100 acres of pasture and wooded area was affected. At least 1 home was evacuated.

     On Oct 2, conditions were worse. Winds gusting over 80 km/h along with dry and warm weather created prime conditions for dangerous fast-moving fires. Some fires were sparked in Winnipeg and near Vita, Ross and St. Malo. Ross, which is east of Winnipeg, was under an evacuation order due to a brush fire nearby. About 50 homes, or about 200 people, were evacuated. A brush fire near St. Malo was brought under control with no reports of property damage. In Winnipeg, 3 fires were sparked; in the 1400 block of Charleswood Road, in the Assiniboine Forest and near Loudoun Road. The fire near Loudoun Road was actually a reignited fire from 2 days earlier. This time however, it was larger. Residents in the area were forced to soak down their property to prevent spreading. The fire in the Assiniboine forest was so deep inside the forest that firefighters could not use their hoses. Instead, they walked around pounding the flames with brooms. Dark smoke from these fires was blowing into the city through the day.

     The worst fire was near Vita. A grass fire started in the southwest corner of the community. A state of emergency and an evacuation order for the whole town was issued by early afternoon. Strong winds rapidly pushed the fire into the community destroying 4 homes; 1 in the town itself and 3 in the nearby rural area. A bridge on highway 201 was also destroyed. 2 drivers heading towards town, which could not see the fallen bridge due to thick smoke across the road, drove right into the void left by the fallen bridge. Luckily, they did not face any serious injuries. Some roads in the area were shut down due to the flames and smoke. Anybody who had to travel in the area was warned to watch out for loose cattle since fences had been burnt. Unfortunately, cell services in the area were cut during the fire.

Burned down home near Vita, pic by Stan Milosevic/
Two vehicles in the void of a fallen bridge, pic by Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC
      On Nov 17, a fundraiser was held in the town to help the 4 families who lost their homes in the fire.

This post contains information, photos or video from the following sources:

No comments:

Post a Comment