Sunday, 30 March 2014

Warmer temperatures start Monday for Montreal

Snow clearing crews across southern Quebec were kept busy again on Sunday moving aside 10-20cm of heavy wet snow. Lets hope this was the last time this season we will need the use of plows. (Valley Weather Photo)
The question posed to me on a daily basis now is when will we get spring, when will it get warmer? My answer has been soon, but with a disclaimer. This winter has been long leaving behind plenty of ice on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, and piles of snow all around the region. This will definitely slow the onset of warmer weather as the evaporating ice and snow will keep temperatures cooler and produce more cloud. We only managed 0C today in Montreal while places with sunshine like Toronto reached a warmer 6C, and Ottawa 3C.

A perfect example of our slow start to spring was the storm that swept across Quebec on Sunday. Montreal received between 10-15cm of wet snow in just a few hours. It was windy as well with gusts at Trudeau Airport close to 70km/h through the middle part of the day. Places just south of the US border reported rainfall. Just the extra degree or two in temperature difference in Montreal meant snow over rain. The good news is we have some milder air starting Monday with clearing skies by noon. Temperatures will respond most of this week under the warm April sun, reaching daytime highs of plus 6 to 8C (43 to 48F) in Montreal. Overnight lows will drop just below the freezing point between -2 and -4C (25 to 28F). The next chance for precipitation will come late Tuesday or Wednesday in the form of a few snowflakes or showers. More steady mixed precipitation is likely by next weekend.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Storm Update

Here is the latest information I have gathered on the snow forecast for tonight into Sunday. It appears the bulk of the moisture will remain across the border areas with New York and Vermont. This is typical with an east coast storm. Low pressure will move from the middle Atlantic towards Cape Cod and then into Atlantic Canada once again. Lots of rain and wet snow is forecast across New England and the Maritimes, so flooding may be an issue there. As far as Montreal and southern Quebec are concerned, snow will begin this evening and taper off on Sunday morning. Current indications are for 5-10cm of very wet snow from Montreal south to the border with 15-25cm in the Townships and Beauce. Current warnings include a winter storm warning for the Townships and a winter weather advisory for northern New York and Vermont. Temperatures will be mild today at 4C dropping to -2C tonight and back up to plus 1C on Sunday. Skies will clear by late in the day. Winds will be strong during the storm out of the northeast from 30-60km/h.

It appears temperatures will go above freezing for most of next week and perhaps beyond as April begins. Highs by the middle of the upcoming week will reach close to 10C. This may be the last appreciable snowfall for Montreal, only time will tell.

**See below for previous storm discussion.

Friday, 28 March 2014

More snow expected late Saturday for Montreal

This mornings snow sure put everyone in a bad mood in Montreal. I took more abuse today for being a weather nerd than I can remember since my high school days. Around 5cm of snow fell rapidly between 5 and 8am snarling morning traffic and adding to the frustrations of a long winter and late spring. The much advertised warm air was tempered by heavy rain most of the day with about 13mm here on L'Ile Perrot. That managed to keep temperatures in check with a high of only plus 3C (38F) which is still below normal. It is still raining tonight as a cold front moves across the St. Lawrence Valley. Temperatures will drop tonight to just below freezing as the front moves south of Montreal and into central New York state. We may see some brief sun on Saturday with a high of 4C (40F). Clouds will increase late in the day with a mix of rain and snow developing by evening.

The aforementioned front will stall across New York state and become the focus for moisture moving north from the Gulf of Mexico. This sets up a difficult forecast for the weekend. Previous thinking was the front would move far enough south to leave us under high pressure with sunshine and mild air for the weekend. It does not look like that now. The front will remain close enough to draw moisture into southern Quebec. To add to this complicated forecast will be a developing low pressure over North Carolina that will move along the east coast. Both these features will combine to produce a period of wet snow and rain Saturday night into Sunday morning. The question is, will it be cold enough for accumulating snow? If it is, we may see 10-15cm of snow from Montreal into northern New York and the Eastern Townships by Sunday morning. Currently winter storm watches have been hoisted for the Townships and northern NY/Vermont.

As always I welcome any questions, comments or weather photos, which I will share with my readers.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

White hurricane moves away from Maritimes - warmer soon

NOAA image of the "white hurricane" pounding Atlantic Canada. Montreal remained on the far western edge of the cloud shield with gusty north winds yesterday.
It basically was a white hurricane that pounded Atlantic Canada on Wednesday. Reports of 25-50cm of snow being blown around by winds either side of 100km/h all day and at times as high as 170km/h. Grand Etang on Cape Breton Island had a wind gust to 171km/h (106 mph). This remarkable storm wound up like a spinning top quickly with a central pressure all the way down to 955mb. For a time it was the strongest storm anywhere on the planet. This morning the precipitation has moves into the coastal waters as well as Newfoundland, but winds remain gusty with several reports to 90 and 100km/h. The Trans Canada Highway between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was closed for most of the last 24 hours but has since opened. Visibility was near zero for most of the period but has started to improve very slowly. Prince Edward Island remains closed with roads blocked by 53cm of snow. The Confederate Bridge is still shut down. Most Island roads are impassable and all flights have been cancelled. Schools and businesses are shut for a second day. Power outages are widespread across the region with utilities working in less than ideal conditions to restore electricity. Newfoundland Power has warned that is could take several days to bring all customers back onto the grid.

All travel including Halifax public transit ground to a halt in the afternoon in dangerous weather with zero visibility. (Radio Canada)
The silver lining from all this is that warmer air is on the horizon for most of eastern Canada. It will not be tropical but high temperatures will nudge above 0C on Friday and into the middle single digits to perhaps 10C (50F) over the weekend form Ontario east into storm weary Atlantic Canada. After the cold this morning, -14C currently, we will have a high of -2C. Montreal will have a period of rain and snow mixed beginning this afternoon and persisting into Friday with perhaps 2-5cm. The weekend at this time looks dry for southern Quebec and mild between 7 and 9C (45-50F). There is another much weaker coastal system expected to move northeast on Sunday that could bring more snow or rain to portions of eastern Quebec, at this time passing to far east to affect Montreal.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Powerful Atlantic Ocean storm pounds Maritimes

Sea Dog Pub on Nantucket this morning. It is being battered by hurricane force winds and heavy snow. This weather is moving into Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (Weather Nation Twitter Photo)
Montreal and most of Quebec remain on the periphery of a powerful ocean storm this morning. Montreal can expect a cold north wind up to 40km/h as well as some high cirrus clouds but nothing more. This classic Nor'Easter has undergone significant strengthening overnight bombing out, that is dropping 24mb of pressure in 24 hours. Actually it has deepened by 15mb in the last three hours alone. It is a classic storm, very strong for this time of year with winds approaching hurricane force along the coast of Massachusetts this morning.

Water vapor image of this classic ocean storm with a central pressure as low as 955mb forecast. (NOAA)
Most of the snow associated with this storm is occurring along the coast and offshore as far as New England is concerned. It is a different story in the Maritimes where blizzard warnings are up for all of Nova Scotia, PEI and portions of southern and eastern New Brunswick. The Gaspe region and Lower North Shore will have heavy snow and strong winds as well. Accumulations across Eastern Canada will range form 25-50cm (10-20 inches). Combined with the snow will be winds in the 100km/h range possibly as high as 150km/h over Cape Breton and then into coastal Newfoundland. Already this morning we are seeing wind reports up to 60-70 mph in coastal New England including Nantucket and Cape Cod. Needless to say travel disruptions, school closing and power outages are being reported across that region as well as into Atlantic Canada. Winds will increase dramatically in Nova Scotia over the next few hours.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Warming trend on the horizon for Montreal

Saturdays snowfall was heavy but thankfully of short duration, dumping 10-15cm of snow here on L'Ile Perrot, 
across Montreal and into the Ottawa Valley. (Valley Weather Photo)
We have an active week of weather ahead for many portions of the country but it will end with a definite warming trend and feeling like spring. Montreal had a rather quick but heavy snowfall on Saturday with close to 15cm of wet snow falling in just a few hours over most of the region including Cornwall and the Ottawa Valley. The snow started around 8am and was over by 2pm in Montreal with sunshine talking over for late in the day. The snow created the usual problems on Quebec roads with two major accidents affecting Highway 20 near Quebec City. The system was followed by very cold air and gusty winds for Sunday and that cold will prevail until Tuesday. Temperatures will be well below normal with lows near -18C and highs no better than -5C.

By late Tuesday a very strong low pressure area will form near the Carolina coast and race northeast towards Atlantic Canada. This will be an intense ocean storm remaining offshore of New England with high winds near hurricane force, heavy surf and snow. It looks like all of the weather associated with this storm will stay away from southern Quebec with just a few flurries and a gusty north wind expected. This will not be the case in Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick where a full fledged spring blizzard is likely on Wednesday. What this storm will do for all of us is create a major pattern shift with the polar jet lifting back north of Montreal and allowing some much needed mild air into the region. Temperatures by next weekend will go well above freezing to plus 8C with rain likely. This trend will continue into the first week of April with lots of melting expected. Lets hope we have seen the last of winter 2013-2014.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Snowfall Warning for Montreal

Snowfall warnings remain in effect along the St. Lawrence Valley from Montreal to Kingston today. Heavy snow with visibility down to under 1km is now falling in Cornwall and this will rapidly spread east into Montreal early this morning. Snow will be wet and heavy and taper off rapidly this afternoon. Look for a quick 10cm of snow for most places with as much as 15cm between Montreal and the US border. This will make road conditions very poor through the middle hours of the day with low visibility and icy roads. Temperatures will be near 0C (32F) today cooling off considerably tonight down to -12C. It will also turn windy tonight, out of the northwest at 30-50km/h with a few flurries.

On Sunday look for clearing skies, but temperatures will remain cold with daytime highs of -7C, well below the normal high of plus 5C. Most of the upcoming week looks quiet with lots of sunshine and a very slow warming trend that will see daytime highs finally go above freezing by late in the week.

There is one glitch in the forecast and that is on Wednesday. Computer models have a very large and intense coastal low forming over the open waters of the Atlantic and tracking into the Maritimes. It will bring a very strong storm to Atlantic Canada and possibly coastal New England but at this time looks to travel well south and east of southern Quebec. It will need to be monitored in case the track shifts to the west.

Friday, 21 March 2014

More snow expected for Montreal

4pm Update: Snowfall Warning for metro Montreal, southern Quebec and most of Eastern Ontario for up to 15cm of wet snow on Saturday.

It is a chilly, breezy morning across southern Quebec with a current temperature of -3C but a gusty northwest wind up to 50km/h making it feel colder. A little light snow fell overnight, enough to coat the ground. Yesterday was rather mild with a high of  4C and about 3cm of snow in Montreal followed by 6mm of rain. Today should be cloudy for the most part with temperatures right around 0C for a high.

We are expecting another shot of snow tonight and Saturday morning as low pressure moves from the Great Lakes across upstate New York. Snow should start in the pre-dawn hours in Montreal and continue through most of the morning. Amounts should range from 5-10cm in the city with perhaps as much as 15cm along the US border. Winds will be rather strong as well in the 20-40km/h range, so travel will be affected. No warnings are in place at this time but I will monitor the system today and post if any are issued. Environment Canada does have a special weather statement issued for the system. Colder air will move in behind the snow through next Wednesday with below normal lows in the minus teens and daytime highs around -4C.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

According to the calendar - Spring arrives today

Spring arrives today at 12:57 PM as the sun crosses the equator and moves into the Northern Hemisphere. The days are getting longer and in time the warm sun will win out over the cold and snow. In time, but for now, as the forecast does not look anything like spring.

SUMMERSTOWN, ONTARIO west of the Quebec/Ontario border, if only the name would imply the season. The St. Lawrence Seaway remains frozen solid along its length from Montreal to Kingston. The opening has been delayed several days to March 31. If warmer weather does not arrive soon, limits may be placed on which ships can traverse the system.
(Valley Weather Photo)

On Tuesday, Toronto reached the dubious distinction of having at least 1cm of snow on the ground for 100 consecutive days. So I thought I would take a look at Montreal, specifically Trudeau Airport where the official stats are kept. Our first snowfall was November 26th, since that day we have had 109 days of snow accumulation on the ground greater than 1cm. That includes 100 consecutive days as off today, March 20. We had 4 such days in November, 27 days in December, followed by all of January, February and so far March. So indeed it has been a long winter, not the worst on record, but relentless. The piles of dirty snow sit high on everyone's front lawns and in parking lots across the city melting a little each day. Add to that all the frigid cold, strong winds and freezing rain and it has been a challenging few months for sure.

That brings us to this morning. We had a few centimetres of slushy wet snow overnight in Montreal that has since turned to light rain. We are sitting just above the freezing point at 2C. Snow is still falling up towards Quebec City and north of St. Jerome in the Laurentians. Low pressure will pass east of Montreal this morning with light rain and snow tapering off. Temperatures will make it to 4C (39F) before sliding back below freezing tonight. More light snow is expected this evening and overnight. A few hours of clearing may take place Friday before another clipper system brings more snow, perhaps as much as 5-10cm into Saturday. Temperatures will be mild or near normal into Saturday before more cold air arrives on Sunday with well below normal temperatures into next week, lows in the minus teens and highs around -4C by Monday. No real warming trend is on the horizon at this time.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Winter hangs on in Quebec

Despite the cold, the days are getting longer. This mornings beautiful sunrise in Montreal featured a sun dog (above right), ice crystals in the high cirrus cloud reflecting the light. With the sunrise at 7:01 this morning in Montreal, and setting at 7:06 this evening, we finally have over 12 hours of daylight. (Valley Weather Photo)
 The story remains the same across southern Quebec and a large part of eastern North America, cold. Despite the Vernal Equinox being less than 48 hours away, spring is nowhere to be found. It is cold again this morning with the low at -17C at my home, well below the normal low of -6C. Again we will slowly warm today and reach -4C by late this afternoon. Tonight will not be as cold as a southwest wind develops ahead of the next low pressure area from the central plains. This low will pass across the Great Lakes and into Ontario passing north of Montreal. Clouds will increase early Wednesday followed by milder air with a rain/snow mix expected across Ontario and Quebec from midday Wednesday into early Thursday morning. The Ottawa Valley could see 5-10cm of snow while I expect amounts will be less than 5cm for Montreal as we mix and change to rain later in the day. Temperatures will warm to above freezing at 2C (36F), but that is still below normal.

Looking ahead we have a chance for more snow on Saturday, perhaps as much as 10cm in Montreal followed by another surge of cold air from Sunday into next week. It is worth mentioning that the law for having snow tires installed on your vehicle came to an end March 15. That being said, I will not be taking mine of anytime soon and you probably should not either.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Frosty St. Patrick's Day

The cold could not keep the crowds away from the annual Montreal St Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday.

We just missed the record low this morning in Montreal, at the airport at least, dropping to -16C, the record was -20C set in 1950. It is cold everywhere with -20C on L'Ile Perrot, -26C in Lennoxville and Granby, -24C in St. Jerome and -22C in Cornwall.

This morning was also the coldest St. Patrick's Day morning in 129 years in Burlington, Vermont where it was -8F (-22C), the record was -6F (-21C) set in 1885. Look for a rapid increase in temperatures today under light winds and the warm March sun. High temperatures are forecast around -6C, a vast improvement over the -9C on Sunday with those biting northwest winds. The cold and wind failed to keep large crowds from enjoying the 191st Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Montreal. Temperatures were around -10C with a gusty wind that made it feel closer to -20C. But a least it was dry and sunny. The event has never failed to run, despite terrible weather some years with cold, wind, snow and rain. That included the March 1993 parade that was held the morning after the super storm dumped 45cm of snow on the city. Snowplows were part of the parade, but the event went on.

This week will be a little milder, but still below normal for mid to late March. Sunshine today and Tuesday will be replaced by clouds with flurries or showers for Wednesday and Thursday. It will be chilly today, but warm to above freezing by Wednesday.

Friday, 14 March 2014

A temperature roller coaster ride for Montreal

After the snow of Wednesday and Thursday we woke to clear skies in Montreal Friday morning, but it was cold with the early morning temperatures on L'Ile Perrot at -19C. It was a touch milder at the airport at -17C. The final snow totals are in and they fell into the forecast amount of 15-25cm, the most here on L'Ile Perrot and points south to the US border, with lesser amounts on the island of Montreal north into Laval and the Laurentians. Officially the airport had 17cm, while I measured 20cm (8 inches). Sherbrooke in the Eastern Townships was in the 30-35cm (12-14 inch) range while Burlington, Vermont had a whopping 45cm (18 inches). It was the 4th biggest March storm on record and 12th overall for Burlington.

The weekend forecast for Montreal will feature a brief rise in temperatures before they crash again on Sunday. We will go from our cold morning lows of -19C today up to 0C by late in the day. Look for a bit of light snow late this afternoon, perhaps 1-3cm. Tonight will be cloudy with temperatures rising to 4C by Saturday morning. Expect a few showers overnight that will turn back to flurries by noon Saturday as the mercury falls again. Low by Sunday morning will be cold around -12C with highs for the parade Sunday no better than -7C. It will at least be sunny and dry on Sunday.

Map from
Today is the anniversary of the big super storm of March 13-14, 1993. Montreal had over 40cm of snow and fierce winds, enough to keep the Gazette delivery trucks in their driveways. (Mine was literally buried). The paper was cancelled that Sunday morning for the first and only time in my 15 year career at The Montreal Gazette. You can read more about that storm HERE.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

More snow Friday - when will this winter end?

Heavy snow and poor visibility on L'Ile Perrot Wednesday afternoon. Close to 20cm fell across the city. (ValleyWX Photo)
 Our latest winter storm is now affecting Atlantic Canada after dumping close to 20cm on southern Quebec. More snow fell to the south with as much as 30cm along the US border, a little less in Montreal's northern suburbs. This morning we are left with light snow and blowing snow until about noon, with slowly clearing skies by late it the day. It is cold this morning, well below normal at -15C with a windchill of -25C. Roads are in terrible shape with hard packed snow in many areas and still reduced visibility on open highways off island. On Wednesday numerous accidents were reported including one the forced the closure of Highway 201 near Highway 20 in Coteau du Lac for several hours last night. This morning there are several closures east of Montreal around Quebec City as well as the lower St. Lawrence and Chaudière-Appalaches.

The weather will remain cold today with highs no better than -10C dropping to -18C tonight under clear skies with deep snow and diminishing winds. On Friday another weaker low pressure area will move across the Great Lakes and into southern Quebec with 2-4cm of snow. It will be much milder up to -1C. Saturday looks like the best day of the week with cloudy skies and a mild high of plus 3C. A strong cold front may produce some snow late Saturday. On Sunday the weather looks cloudy and colder at -7C for Montreal's St. Patrick's Day Parade.

I wish I could tell you that warmer weather was around the corner, but the balance of March looks colder than normal, which makes me think we have more snow in our future.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Winter Storm Update

The center of this late season winter storm is moving from central Pennsylvania to New York City this evening with heavy snow to the north and mixed precipitation and thunderstorms to the south.
WINTER STORM WARNING remains posted for Montreal through midnight.

A strong winter storm is currently well underway across southern Quebec and eastern Ontario. Roads are snow covered as the heaviest snow begins to affect metro Montreal. In addition to the heavier snow, strong winds have developed, up to 60km/h at Trudeau Airport in the last hour. They will continue to gust to 70km/h until at least midnight. In terms of accumulations, Montreal has had between 3-5cm so far with 10-15cm across southern Ontario. Storm totals for Montreal will fall into the 15-25cm range once the snow tapers off Thursday morning. Temperatures have fallen dramatically all day from 0C at 5am to -9C currently with a windchill of -19C. Visibility is now under 1km in blowing snow.

Powerful winter storm for Montreal

The Weather Channel warnings map shows the extent of this upcoming winter storm. Weather warnings spread form the Midwest US into Atlantic Canada.
MONTREAL: Winter Storm Warning (15-25cm)

First of all this morning, always remember just how challenging a month March can be. It can feature summer like warmth but also has the distinction of producing some of the biggest snowstorms this city has recorded, 1971 and 1993 come to mind, just to name a few. This one may be another.

A large late season winter storm is expected to move from Kentucky towards New York City today while strengthening. The system has already spread a swath of heavy snow from Chicago to Detroit/Windsor this morning and it is creeping towards the Lake Erie shoreline in Ontario. The storm has even produced thunder and lightning with the heavy snow across Indiana. Snow is forecast to arrive around noon in Montreal becoming heavy this afternoon for the commute and lasting overnight. Widespread blowing snow will also occur as winds increase out of the northeast to 70km/h by late in the day, backing to the north after midnight and gradually decreasing. Storm totals forecast are from 15-25cm (6-10 inches) for the Montreal to Kingston corridor with less to the north of the St. Lawrence River. Meanwhile between 30-60cm (1-2 feet) is forecast across the Eastern Townships and into Vermont and New York. Travel off island to the south may become very difficult this afternoon. In western New York winds expected close to 100km/h have prompted rare blizzard warnings.

Temperatures are rather mild this morning at -2C but are expected to drop as the snow starts, down to -4C by late in the day and to -15C by Thursday morning. Blowing snow is expected to reduce visibility to near zero at times late today and tonight. Skies will slowly clear out Thursday afternoon as the storm moves into Atlantic Canada. It will remain cold on Thursday with gusty winds.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Winter Storm Warning for southern Quebec

This graphic is from the NWS in Burlington, Vermont, and gives you an idea of the extent of the heavy snow up to the US border. The amounts listed are in inches. Between 15-20cm (6-8 inches) of snow should fall in metro-Montreal with warnings now in effect for Wednesday.
An appetizer of wet snow fell late last evening and into the wee hours this Tuesday morning with around 3-5cm of new snow. It is a very mild morning here on L'Ile Perrot at plus 1C (33F). Enjoy it folks as we have a major winter snowstorm bearing down on the region Wednesday. Low pressure will come together across the Midwest today and move across the Ohio Valley and towards New York City. All the ingredients are coming together for a big storm to develop. Warm air will be in place initially but arctic air will pour in behind the system.

Snow is expected to begin Wednesday morning and become heavy in the afternoon in southern Quebec and Eastern Ontario. We may have rates of several centimetres per hour at the height of the storm. The St. Lawrence Valley can expect 15-20cm of snow with amounts of up to 30-40cm across the Eastern Townships, Beauce and Gaspe and into upstate New York and Vermont. Winter Storm Warnings are now in effect for metro Montreal and well as the entire length of the St. Lawrence Valley. Warnings extend into Ontario as well as Atlantic Canada and New England. Winds will increase in the afternoon, gusting up to 70km/h and with temperatures forecast to plummet to -10C by late in the day, blowing snow will become a problem. Travel will be very poor in all regions of extreme southern Quebec with low visibility and snow covered roads. If you plan to travel Wednesday, you may want to make alternate plans. The snow will only taper off early Thursday. Temperatures will be mild today around plus 3C. The low tonight will be -3C and with the onset of snow Wednesday, the temperature will drop to -10C by late in the day.

Monday, 10 March 2014

More winter weather this week in Montreal

The light snow that fell in the pre-dawn hours Saturday sent this truck into the ditch closing the 401 near 4th Line Road at the Quebec/Ontario border. The 54 year old Quebec driver was taken to Cornwall Hospital with serious injuries. Travel will become slippery again tonight and especially Wednesday in the entire region as winter continues. (ValleyWX Photos)
More snow fell overnight in Montreal with around 3cm observed over most parts of southern Quebec. We will have a break today with partly sunny skies and mild temperatures near the freezing point. This comes after a decent weekend with a little snow and freezing drizzle early Saturday followed by sunshine and mild temperatures for the balance of the weekend. Last nights system is to our southeast this morning and will be followed by another weak clipper system with more snow tonight. It looks similar to last night with 1-3cm likely. Tuesday will be mild with high temperatures up to plus 3C.

Beyond that the forecast becomes interesting and a little tricky for southern Quebec and extreme eastern Ontario. Low pressure is forecast to develop over the southern plains and move towards the middle Atlantic and eventually up the eastern Seaboard towards Cape Cod. This system will spread a wide swath of precipitation in the form of rain and wet snow across New England. The northern edge of the storm is forecast to affect the Townships and Gaspe as well as most of Atlantic Canada. The outer portions of the storm may catch Montreal and the border regions of New York and Vermont on Wednesday. At this time the best guest is for some snow on Wednesday in Montreal, quite windy with blowing snow, especially south of the city. 

A winter storm watch is now in effect for all of Vermont and New York including the St. Lawrence Valley of New York. They may be extended north into extreme southern Quebec later today. Accumulations at this time will range from 15-20cm over Vermont and New York as well as the Townships with perhaps 5-10cm for Montreal. Those amounts will be fine tuned up or down as the track and intensity become more clear. In any event, expect snow Wednesday across a wide area of eastern North America with slow travel by air and ground into Thursday morning.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Cool Spring expected for Quebec and Ontario

As I look at the thermometer showing -23C on March 6, the reality is setting in that spring may be further away than I want it to be. Despite the increase in sunshine and daylight minutes, the mercury remains cold in what has been one long and hard winter. This certainly is not the worst we have seen, but it is colder than we have become accustomed to. We were wandering around record low territory this morning here on L'Ile Perrot at least, just missing the previous cold low of -24.3C set in 2007. It will warm up rapidly today under sunny skies and increasing light south winds. We should see a high of -7C and all the way up to plus 1C on Friday. The weekend looks mild with a mix of sun and clouds and perhaps an isolated snowflake or two. There are no storms on the horizon for Montreal at this time.

Not since 1979 has there been so much ice on the Great Lakes. (NOAA)
Spring may be a little delayed this year, which is not a surprise given the amount of snow on the ground and ice on the waterways. Ice has a way of slowing down spring with cold water temperatures on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River affecting land temperatures in Ontario and Quebec. Great Lakes ice cover is nearing the record established in 1979 when 94.7% of the water surface was frozen over. As of March 5, 2014, we are closing in on 92%. This brings with it a whole host of problems from delays in the start of the Seaway shipping season to shore flooding and of course a cool and grey spring. Time will tell but don't look for any record highs this March. The extended forecast looks to be cooler than normal through mid-April. Precipitation is expected to be near or slightly above normal for Montreal, so we may still have a snowstorm or two in our future.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Montreal Blizzard of '71

The biggest weather event in Montreal history to date is the 1998 ice storm, there is no disputing that fact. Montreal has also had the famous Decarie flood from severe thunderstorms in July 1987 and the March 1993 Superstorm that paralyzed the Eastern Seaboard and dumped over 40cm of snow in Montreal in about 18 hours. But long before those events there was the blizzard of  March 3-5, 1971. As far as I am concerned this still stands as the biggest snowstorm this city has recorded, with all do respect to December 27, 2012 when we broke the long standing ‘71 record of the most snow in 24 hours. Despite that record, December 2012 was no March 1971.
The photos on this page are from Radio Canada/CBC Montreal, shot during the height of the storm on March 4 and below the aftermath on March 5, 1971
1971 was a beast of a storm, a low pressure area that deepened rapidly as it moved from Louisiana to New York State. It would start snowing at 5pm on March 3rd and not stop until the early morning hours of March 5th. It virtually shut down the St. Lawrence Valley from Cornwall to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River with tropical storm force winds, hurricane like low barometric pressure of 970mb in Montreal (the lowest pressure at the center of the storm would be 966mb, equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane) and over 50 cm of snow. The drifts were over six feet high and shut down all major highways across the area stranding thousands of motorists. Thirty fatalities were reported from the storm in Quebec, including 17 in metro Montreal. Accumulations for the 36 hour storm were impressive with 47cm in Montreal but as much as 80cm in other parts of Quebec.

The most dangerous aspect of this Atlantic Nor’easter was the ferocity of  the winds which gusted to over 120km/h in many parts of the St. Lawrence Valley including 110km/h at then Dorval Airport. Visibility at the airport was below one kilometre for over 17 hours, including a five hour period during the daylight hours on March 4th when it was completely nil. It was far worse in open areas off island where travel was impossible. I spent the day in the window of our home on the waterfront in Verdun watching snowmobiles go back and forth in the zero visibility for hours rescuing motorists and delivering people to area hospitals. Roads were closed including the 401 and 20 and power was out to thousands of Hydro customers for several days. There were even reports of damage to roofs and other infrastructure as a result of the strong winds. It would take 36 hours for most major roads to be cleared for travel, longer for city streets. Montreal streets were littered with abandoned cars including emergency vehicles forcing police to respond on foot or by snowmobile. Bus and train service stopped but the metro continued to run where power was available. The NHL game between the Candiens and Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, March 4th had to be postponed making it the first time since 1918 that a Habs game was cancelled. The storm occurred at the end of what is to this date the snowiest winter on record in Montreal with 380cm of snow.

In reference to 2012 vs 1971, I remember what long time CJAD traffic reporter Rick Leckner said on the morning after we broke the 1971 record on December 27, 2012. He noted that the only similarity between 1971 and 2012 was in the quantities of snow, 45cm (2012) in 24 hours vs 43cm (1971). On the morning after the big storm, March 5, 1971 he took the CJAD 800 helicopter up for a look at the carnage left on Montreal and southern Quebec highways. What he saw was abandoned cars everywhere and one lane down the center of most highways, nothing more. There were huge drifts of snow blocking highways all over the city. On the morning after the December 2012 storm, people were traveling to work on black top at 100km/h with no delays to speak of.

The 1971 storm stands alone. In an era where we call everything a storm, we have yet to match it, I will let you know if and when we do. I have blogged before about the 71 storm and its impact on me at the young age of 5. We had a tremendous spot on the St. Lawrence River in Verdun to watch the weather events of the day unfold. This event also holds for me a strong connection to my late father. He was one of the few who defied the odds and made it to work and back home on March 4, 1971. I sat waiting for him until 7pm in that the windowsill. It is the stuff of legends in our family, and many feel the start of my lifelong passion with the weather. To this day any entry I do on the blizzard of 1971 brings lots of comments and oh so many page views. There still seems to be plenty of interest in the events of 43 years ago this week.