12 Of The Worst Winter Storms In The History Of Montreal
Let's hope this winter isn't as bad.
You may be happy, or you may be sad, and either way there's no denying the fact that Montreal saw its very first snowfall of the season today, and it definitely won't be the last.
Partially to freak you out, and partially to get you prepped for winter, we've compiled some of the worst winter snow storm to ever bury Montreal in snow and ice. Maybe this first snow fall is only a precursor to winter-terror to come, or maybe it's just a gentle reminder that winter is here. Hopefully you were smart and got a head of the torment this year by doing, but either way, it is no where near as bad as any of the storms found below.
The Ice Storm Of Late February (1961)
Everyone remembers the mega-awful ice storm of 98, but a little more than 30 years before the city experienced a maelstrom of freezing arctic winds that was bad enough to result in 7 million dollars in damages.
Blowing through Montreal on February 25th and 26th of 1961, wind gusts reached a speed of 130km/hr. Paired with a full 30mm of freezing rain, it's easy to see how this particular ice storm did so much damage to the city, and even knocked out the power for a few full days.
The Snowstorm Of The Century (1971)
I didn't even need to create a snappy, mildly hyperbolic subtitle for this Montreal winter storm, because it is quite literally known as "the Snowstorm of the Century," a name that paints a pretty good picture as to how bad it was.
Occurring on March 4th, 1971, the Snowstorm of the Century (SoC, for short) dumped 47cm of snow on Montreal, with 110km/h winds that tore apart power lines and cables, with some areas on the island left without power for a full ten days.
17 people tragically lost their lives to this snowstorm, which produced 500, 000 truckloads of snow. Perhaps even more surprising (at least to certain meteorological historians) is the fact that the SoC led to the cancellation of the Habs' home game, which has never happened, save for the Montreal flu epidemic of 1918.
It's also worth noting that Montreal wasn't the only city that experienced a mega-storm in March of 1971, as most of eastern Canada was struck with the same nor'easter (a storm blowing northeast from the Atlantic Ocean) that led to blizzards throughout the region, with certain areas getting as much as 61cm of snow.
The Montreal Ice Storm (1998)
Of course the infamous Montreal Ice Storm of 98 would make this list, and for good reason, because the arctic tempest blanketed the city with 10cm of ice (twice as thick as the ice storm of 1961), along with 100cm of snow. A strange atmosphere of fear was created during this near-biblical ice storm, in no small part because all Montrealers had to worry about chunks of ice crashing down on them any time they went outside.
Barraging Eastern Ontario, New Brunswick, and, of course, Southern Quebec, from January 4th to 10th, the destructive blizzard did away with telephone poles and power lines across all three regions, leaving many without power for days, and in some cases, an entire month.
In total, twenty-five people died due to the storm, $3 billion was spent on cleanup, 5, 000 trees in Mount Royal Park had to be cut/trimmed due to damage, and roads were closed out of fear of falling ice. Even the Canadian Armed Forces were called in, the damage was so bad.
The Massive Snowfall Of Mid-December (2007)
Anyone who was hoping for a white Christmas in 2007 certainly got their wish, as the city was blanketed with serious amounts of snow on December 16th and 17th, 2007, the first major snowfall of the year.
In a little more than a day, Southern Ontario and Quebec experienced a full 30 to 40 centimetres of snow, with winds reaching up to 100km/h in certain areas. Sure, this snowstorm isn't quite on the scale as some of the others, but all the folks who had to shovel their driveways back in 2007 may feel otherwise.
The Coldest February EVER (2015)
Placing an entire month on this list does go against the whole "worst winter storm" theme, but think back to last February and I feel like you'll understand my reasoning. Unlike most snow or ice storms that last a couple of days, February 2015 was 28 days of pure death, confirmed by the fact that it was the coldest February in Montreal in over 100 years.
Over the course of February 1st to 26th, Montrealers experienced an arctic average temperature of -14.5C, a full nine degrees lower than usual. The only other time the city experienced such a long stretch of cold was way back in February 1889, and even that can't quite be confirmed due to unreliable data.
So even though there was no intense snow falls or ice storms last February, the entire month made the city feel like an inhospitable frozen tundra, which might even be worse.
The Valentine's Day Weather Massacre (2007)
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Valentine's Day is a harbinger of bad times, and this winter storm all but proves it.
When Montrealers were getting ready for a romantic holiday in February of 2007, they didn't quite get what they expected, because on the day before V-Day, the city was rocked by a winter storm of the highest order.
Not only did the storm result in the cancellation of schools and flights, the roads were put into such a state of icy-snowy peril that cars couldn't traverse the city's roads.
The 15-20cm of fresh snow, accompanied by 60km/h winds, forced florists, who needed to make tons of Valentine's Day deliveries, into a state of panic. In most cases, even though some florists employed quadruple their usual number of drivers, flower deliveries never made it to their intended destination, which no doubt led to some pretty miffed significant others.
Adding to the V-Day tragedy, restaurants in Old Montreal lost an entire 25% in reservations thanks to the storm. All in all, the storm really ruined Valentine's Day 2007, which might have been a blessing in disguise anyway.
The Montreal Snowfall Record Is Broken (2012)
1971's intense snowfall seemed like small peas in 2012, when Montreal experienced a downpour of 43.2cm of snow, the largest the city has ever seen.
Thankfully, no deaths were reported, and the worst that really happened was the cancellation/delay of about 148 flights coming out of Trudeau airport. Roads and highways were also closed, as Montrealers realized they weren't going anywhere when there's almost a foot and a half of snow on the ground, creating an eerie calm in the city, a sharp contrast to the damage seen in '71.
The Snowstorm That Never Was, Because Of The Soviets
There wasn't much love for the USSR in most parts of North America in the late 50s. Cold War hysteria was a real thing, and this particular Montreal "snowstorm that never was" is a prime example.
By mid-January, 1958, Montreal only received a total of 16 inches of snow, far below the average. Many were left wondering why the city was spared from the usual barrage of snowflakes. Most folks were probably thanking the lords or winter for the mild precipitation, not really caring as to why, but one Montrealer had a theory: it was the Soviets.
Captain Eric S. Neal, described as an "unofficial weatherman," claimed that an "unpublicized H-Bomb blast set off in Northern Siberia early in December" resulted in a mass of hot air sent through city, making Montreal unseasonably warm, and so more than snow was seen.
Neal's claims were never substantiated, and admittedly seemed kind of crazy anyway. There was, however, a silver lining to the lack of snow that year, as the city saved a full $300, 000 in snow removal. So really, if the Soviets were responsible, Montreal should have been thankful.
The Surprise Snowstorm That Happened In Spring
By the time April hits, everyone in Montreal pretty much assumed Mother Nature has had her fill of raining snow upon the city. But not-so-good ol' Gaia is a tricky b*tch, as the city saw on April 1st, 1985, when a surprise spring snowfall came out of nowhere and covered the city with 14cm of snow.
Coming out of nowhere at rush hour, the blanket of snow instantly became slush once it the ground, creating a slip-n-slide like environment for anyone on the road. Thankfully, no serious accidents were reported, but there's a guarantee that a high number of Montrealers cried a "still, with this winter bullshit?" as they accidentally stepped in a giant puddle of icy slush.
While there were definitely worse snowstorms to occur in Montreal, this one gets a place on this list based purely on the surprise factor.
The "Snow Removers Are On Strike" Storm (1972 & 1985)
If there's ever a time for the City of Montreal to be in the good graces of snow removal crews, it would be during a snowstorm. Unfortunately, the city isn't all that great with timing in most endeavors, and actually managed to be in a tiff with the all-but-necessary-during-a-winter-storm snow removers on two separate occasions.
Back in 1972, in late February, a massive blizzard rocked eastern Canada. Montreal saw 10 to 15 inches of snow on the ground, which doesn't seem all that bad, if there was anyone to clean it up. Unfortunately, the city snow removal workers had just gone on strike, which no doubt gave them some leverage on their demands.
Things were even worse 13 years later in March of 1985. When the worst snowstorm of the season struck the city, resulting in 35cm of snow in just two days, the city was in a dispute with 80 snow removal truckers, the latter of whom refused to clear any snow. The people of Montreal got the fallout from the argument, as the time needed to clear the snow-congested streets was estimated at 10 full days, double the usual time it would take.
The Winter That Never Ended (2008)
Most of the intense winter storms on this list were running a 100-metre dash, gaining notoriety for their record breaking precipitation in a short amount of time. Winter 2008, however, played things more like a marathon, gaining the title of "the Winter That Never Ended," basically because it felt like a never-ending deluge of snow for the entire season.
Across regions in Ontario and Quebec, towns experienced record-breaking seasonal snow falls, including the Montréal-Mirabel International Airport area which experienced 375.6 cm of snow. Montreal didn't break its record, but it sure did come close, and it sure felt like the city would, thanks to the nigh endless amount of snow that poured from the sky.
Overall, Winter 2007-2008 is remembered for the frequency of snow falls, rather than the amount (unless you're in Ottawa, because they got destroyed) which is maybe even more annoying.
The Mega Storm Of March (1900)
Here's one for the history books: from March 1st to 2nd, 1900, Montreal was dumped on with a total of 55cm of snow. A winter-y sight unseen in the city, March's total snowfall in 1900 reached 118cm, four times higher than the typical average.
Add in the fact that the city didn't have all of the modern tech to do away with snow all the way back in 1900, and you can understand why this particular storm deserves a spot on this list.
DON'T get caught in the cold this winter by completing this!