When life sends you hail ... make ice cream? That's what people in Listowel, Ont. did on Canada Day 1924
If there's any day of the year when Canadians can expect pleasant weather, it's July 1st.
After all, it's officially summer -- there's a good chance temperatures will be warm and skies clear right across the country. “It's the one time of year you could board a plane in St. John's and be properly dressed in Tuktoyaktuk,” says David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada.
But the historical record shows that sometimes, the weather doesn't even respect national holidays.
The first recorded tornado in Canadian history occurred even before confederation, on July 1st, 1792 in Fonthill, Ontario. The twister took out a row of trees that was slated for removal anyway to make way for a road. The locals eventually named the road Hurricane Road in honour of that lucky coincidence.
According to oral reports, the actual day of Canada's birth, July 1st, 1867, could not have been more perfect weather-wise, at least in the four provinces that initially comprised Canada.
“It was described as being warm, sunny and cloudless with a slight breeze,” Phillips says. “In what was Canada back then, you couldn’t have had a finer day.”
Subsequent Canada days have been more eventful:
- July 1st, 1903: Small fish fell from the sky during a heavy rainstorm in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Not to be outdone by their Prairie neighbours, Lethbridge, Alberta reported a shower of tiny beetles that sent people scrambling for cover on Canada Day 1912.
- July 1st, 1920: The city of St. John's, Newfoundland was close to being consumed by a forest fire. Dry conditions and strong winds had been pushing the flames toward the city, but a heavy downpour on Canada Day prevented the fire from getting any closer.
- July 1st, 1924: In what could be considered a testament to Canadian resourcefulness, people in Listowel, Ontario made ice cream out of the thick hail that fell during a Canada Day thunderstorm.
- July 1st, 1962: People in Richmond, British Columbia were shocked when a rare tornado touched down. It lasted only five minutes -- just long enough to smash some greenhouse windows and damage barns along the Fraser River.
People in Yorkton, Sask. were too busy bailing out to enjoy Canada Day 2010
Many beloved Canada Day traditions -- fireworks, parades, concerts and backyard barbecues -- have had to be sacrificed on account of the weather.
On July 1st, 1997, strong winds forced the cancellation of Winnipeg's Canada Day fireworks 45 minutes before the show was to go on, disappointing thousands of spectators.
On July 1st, 2001, celebrations in the nation's capital were cut short due not to inclement weather, but unseasonable cold. Temperatures dropped below 10°C after dark. “People were bundled up on Parliament Hill,” Phillips recalls.
The following year saw the opposite problem: many Hill revellers succumbed to heat stroke as Ottawa hit a high of 32°C with a humidex of 43°C.
In 2010, people in Yorkton, Saskatchewan were too busy bailing out their basements to enjoy Canada Day activities. More than 1,000 homes were flooded after days of heavy rain, and a state of emergency was declared.
If there's a moral to these stories, it's to expect anything and everything from Canada's weather, Phillips says.
“There's no immunity on Canada Day,” he says. “Sometimes you can get some strange and bizarre weather!”
With files from Lyndsay Morrison