Flooding, tornadoes highlight Saskatchewan’s weather during 2016

Saskatchewan is the land of living skies and that can be seen in the weather events that dominated the province during 2016 – from a dry 2015-16 winter, to wildfires, flash flooding and devastating tornadoes.

Here’s a chronological look at the top weather stories in Saskatchewan during 2016.

The year started with a warm, dry winter that set up extreme fire danger ratings across Saskatchewan early in the spring.

By May, what is normally one of the wettest months of the year had turned into a disaster situation in northern Alberta as the Fort McMurray wildfire broke out.

On May 19, the costliest fire in Canadian history crossed the border into Saskatchewan, forcing crews quickly into action, setting up camp in La Loche, 35 kilometres from the edge of the fire.

“As that fire was creeping along towards Saskatchewan we were just doing indirect attack and hotspotting where we could put it out and we tied it in to a bunch of natural barriers on the east side,” Scott Wasylenchuk, director of wildfire operations for the province, said.

Firefighters were eventually able to get the upper hand, declaring the fire out on the Saskatchewan side by June 17.

In July, the focus shifted to floods with 130 millimetres of rain falling in just over two hours in Estevan, leaving much of the city underwater.

Shortly after that, over 100 millimetres of rain fell on the Carrot River area, flooding basements and resulting in numerous states of emergency.

The situation worsened as a road that was holding back a 1.6 kilometre section of a lake gave way, sending water gushing toward the town of Arborfield and forcing the entire community to evacuate.

The water then moved downstream, displacing over 1,000 people from the Red Earth First Nation who were forced to evacuate to Saskatoon.

Just as residents were returning home a few days later, a tornado tore through the Davidson area.

“The shop got torn down, the barn got torn down, corals got torn down, bins got thrown across the yard, my car got crushed, my dad lost two bins, two others have disappeared, the garage got demolished, dad’s stock trailer got crushed, trees are demolished everywhere,” Sydney Willner recalled.

“There’s a hundred years of hard work that you can’t replace,” Gord Willner added.

WATCH BELOW: 

Saskatchewan normally sees 18 tornadoes in a year. This year, 14 touched down in the province, including one near Yorkton that completely leveled a home.

Conditions calmed down until early October when a massive snowstorm blasted Saskatoon with 30 centimetres of snow, surpassing a 100-year-old record, causing widespread power outages and resulting in a devastating halt to harvest.

After a wild 2016, what might 2017 hold? Flood forecasters already have some predictions.

“We have a lot of indicators, two out of three for a flood right now,” John Pomeroy, an associate director of global waters future program at the University of Saskatchewan, said.

“Snowmelt flooding in the spring, these will cover large, tend to be large areas.”

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