File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS People use a boat to navigate a street surrounded by floodwaters on Ile Bizard west of Montreal.

From blizzards to flooding, Canadians left wondering what happened to spring

MONTREAL — As Canadians grapple with wild weather ranging from snowstorms on the Prairies to heavy rain and flooding in the East, many are wondering if the days of T-shirts and mild spring temperatures will ever arrive.

And the perception of a tardy spring is more than just vitamin-D-deprived grumbling, according to a senior climatologist from Environment Canada.

“Everyone’s asking me, ‘Where’s spring?’ ” David Phillips said in an interview. ”We’re sending out a search party.”

Phillips says the ”consistently lousy” and “relentless” cold and rainy weather across much of the country can be blamed on the long winter, which caused higher-than-normal snowfalls, frozen ground and cold temperatures that refuse to let go.

“It’s like a bully, it grabs on and takes hold, there’s a big tug of war, a meteorological fight between the warm air and the cold air,” he said in a telephone interview from Toronto. ”Clearly, the cold air is winning out.”

From high winds in British Columbia to cold and ice that delayed the start of the spring lobster season in parts of the Maritimes, it appears no part of the country is immune.

In Alberta, blizzard conditions forced road closures east of Calgary last weekend as crews rushed to remove stuck or smashed vehicles on the Trans-Canada Highway.

The snow forced the city to close sports fields across the city, leaving teams scrambling to reschedule their first games of the season.

“The biggest problem is the season lasts only until the first week of July,” said Mario Charpentier, president of the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association.

“We have eight weeks to play 16 games, and if we lose one of the weeks, it forces us to reschedule and play maybe instead of two games a week, to play three games a week to catch up.”

In Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes as rising rivers spilled out of their beds, threatening roads, hydro dams and other infrastructure.

In Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, northwest of Montreal, residents had to resort to using boats to visit their stranded homes after the Lake of Two Mountains burst through a man-made clay and grass dike for the first time in decades.

And much like Edmonton’s minor soccer players, even some of Montreal’s top-tier athletes were not immune from the effects of below-average temperatures, ample rain and the occasional snow that plagued the city throughout much of April.

Remi Garde, the head coach of the Montreal Impact, said he’d been forced to ease off on training because of a playing field that remains stubbornly brown and muddy.

“I know the people here are doing their best to get it green, but the cold temperatures at night don’t allow the seeds to germinate, so the field is very difficult for the players,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

In Ontario, which saw frequent rain throughout the second half of April, the opening dates for several provincial parks have been postponed due to weather.

Ontario Parks cited the “late spring arrival” for the delayed opening of Algonquin, Arrowhead and a handful of other popular parks, while Bonnechere and Fitzroy parks will open later due to flooding.

Phillips says the Ottawa and Montreal areas recorded below-average temperatures for every month between October and April — something that ”never happens,” he said.

But April showers bring May flowers, right? Not so fast, he warned.

“I have to tell you, May is not looking good,” Phillips said, explaining that below-average temperatures are expected to persist for at least the first part of the month.

But he did offer a glimmer of hope: He said that while a cold winter can lead to a late spring, the same isn’t true of other seasons. ”Spring gives no sense of what summer will be,” he said.

In Ottawa — where thousands of homeowners, volunteers and first responders have been contending with grey days and cold weather while filling sandbags and fortifying houses from floodwaters — this spring has meant hardship, fear and questions about the future.

But there could be relief on the horizon as the most recent forecast for the National Capital Region calls for a weekend of sun and hot weather, which should see the floodwaters finally start to recede. Organizers of the National Capital Region’s most celebrated spring festival are also hoping the sun will bring something else: an explosion of tulips.

Jo Riding, the manager of the Canadian Tulip Festival, says the 300,000 flowers are very resilient and need only a little sun to burst into bloom in time for the annual event that begins May 10.

“What that takes is three hot, sunny days,” she said. ”So we have high hopes for the weekend, that with three or four good, sunny, hot days in a row we’ll see their faces.”

— With files from Daniela Germano in Edmonton, Adam Burns in Toronto, and Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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