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B.C. heat wave tops Environment Canada's list of top weather events in 2021

Damaged structures are seen in Lytton, B.C., on Friday, July 9, 2021, after a wildfire destroyed most of the village on June 30. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Damaged structures are seen in Lytton, B.C., on Friday, July 9, 2021, after a wildfire destroyed most of the village on June 30. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Record-breaking heat in British Columbia topped Environment and Climate Change Canada’s list of the top weather events in Canada over the past year.

The weather agency released its annual list of top weather events on Thursday, with the heat wave landing the top spot, followed closely by the recent flooding in B.C.

In all, weather events in British Columbia were at least mentioned in five of the 10 submissions.

“Not in 26 years of releasing the Top 10 Weather Events has there been anything comparable to this year, where Canadians endured such a stream of weather extremes,” Environment Canada stated in the report.

“Although we cannot attribute a single weather event to human-caused climate change, the evidence is conclusive -- we are experiencing more intense and more frequent extreme weather. Climate change is leading to more frequent and more intense disasters around the world.” 

Here is a detailed look at Environment Canada’s top weather events of 2021:


Damaged structures are seen in Lytton, B.C., on Friday, July 9, 2021, after a wildfire destroyed most of the village on June 30. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

On June 29, the town of Lytton, B.C. experienced a “Death Valley moment” when temperatures reached a new Canadian record of 49.6 C.

It was the third-consecutive day that Lytton had set a new Canadian heat record. It was hotter in Lytton than has ever been recorded in both Europe and South America.

On June 30, a wildfire destroyed 90 per cent of the town, killing two people and displacing 1,200 others.


Flooding is seen in Grand Forks B.C. in this undated handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary)

On Nov. 13, the first of seven “atmospheric rivers” descended on the southern coast of British Columbia, where massive amounts of rain, combined with the already soggy conditions “created a flood of floods,” according to Environment Canada.

The flooding left several highways either washed out or covered in debris, killed thousands of livestock and wreaked havoc on Canada’s supply chain. 

The agency estimates it is likely the most destructive and expensive weather disaster in Canadian history.


Historians compared the drought in the Prairies this summer to the Great Depression and by the end of the season, several communities had declared states of ecological disaster.

It was one of the driest summers in 75 years.

A week before Canadians were set to harvest their crops, the Canadian Drought Monitor classified 99 per cent of the Prairie’s agricultural landscape as in a drought.


A helicopter carrying a water bucket flies past the Lytton Creek wildfire burning in the mountains near Lytton, B.C., on Sunday, August 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Canada’s wildfire season started about a month early in 2021 and resulted in about 2,500 more wildfires than in 2020.

British Columbia alone reported 1,522 this year and destroyed an area 1.5 times larger than Prince Edward Island.

On July 10, there were out-of-control wildfires in every province and territory except Atlantic Canada and Nunavut.


Canada’s summer was the fifth warmest in the past 74 years, prompting heat records across the country.

In total, there were four significant heat waves in 2021, defined by humidex values above 40 degrees, afternoons above 30 degrees and nights above 20 degrees.


Damage left after a tornado touched down in a neighbourhood in Barrie, Ont., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

While tornadoes with a rating of two or higher are rare in Canada, there were several that reached that classification this year.

On June 21, several tornadoes -- including one EF2 -- hit parts of Quebec and claimed the province’s first tornado victim in 27 years. Upwards of 100 homes suffered major damage.

Another EF2 tornado touched down in Barrie, Ont. on July 15, where it damaged 150 homes and nearly 700 vehicles. There were six other EF2 tornadoes that day, though they were not as destructive.


Nearly simultaneous Arctic blasts from Siberia and Greenland left Canada in a deep freeze for parts of February.

On the weekend of Feb. 14, every square kilometre of the country was frozen, but the worst of it came in the Prairies, where some parts reached lows of -55 degrees.

In Winnipeg, the city’s record cold of -38.8 degrees on Feb. 13 was colder than the tip of Mount Everest.

At a charity hockey game in Edmonton, the freezing temperatures contributed to pucks splitting apart after a collision with the post.


On July 2, a storm hit Calgary with 50 millimetres of rain and hail the size of golf balls.

The storm led to clogged drains, flooding and sewer backups. In total, it’s estimated to have cost $555 million in insurance claims.

A hailstorm in Calgary that caused $1 billion in damages was the top weather event last year.


A tree is seen downed after Hurricane Larry crossed over Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula in the early morning hours, in St. John's, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly

On Sept. 2, Hurricane Larry entered Canadian waters as a Category-2 hurricane, but didn’t make landfall in Newfoundland until Sept. 11.

The hurricane caused widespread outages in the province and eroded several roads along the coastline, though most Newfoundlanders were prepared for the storm.


In mid-January, an atmospheric river in the Pacific Ocean brought intense winds exceeding 100 kilometres per hour to Alberta and the Prairies.

Bratt’s Lake, Sask. report wind gusts of 143 kilometres per hour, while the Moose Jaw airport reported 161 kilometres per hour.

Rain in the area then turned to snow, resulting in blizzard conditions that left poor visibility throughout the Prairies. Top Stories

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