Michael Dawe: Past provides strong proof our weather is unpredictable

The summer of 2019 has turned into a disappointing one, weather-wise, with lots of rain and cool temperatures, particularly since the middle of June.

However, a year that brought quite a miserable September occurred 27 years ago, in 1992.

The summer of 1992 had been relatively cool and moist, but not unusually so. Local crop conditions were deemed to be good, with a potential for some very satisfying yields.

If there was one concern, it was that the somewhat cool conditions meant that the crops were not as far advanced as in previous years.

A stretch of warm, dry weather was still needed to help the crops to mature and to set the stage for a strong harvest season.

The weather finally did turn hot and dry in early to mid August. The highest temperatures of the year were recorded on Aug. 13 and 17, with the temperatures nearing 30 C.

The local media were full of stories of people seeking some relief from the heat. There were reports in the Red Deer Advocate of young people using the free-style ski jump on the northeast side of the city as a place to cool off, and thereby causing some problems at the facility.

Things began to take a dramatic change for the worse around the 19th and 20th of the month. The weather office reported that a strong cold front was approaching.

On Aug. 21, the daily highs dropped into the single digits. On the 23rd, the drizzle turned into a mixture of rain and snow. Areas to the south and east experienced some noticeable amounts of snow on the ground.

Real disaster struck on Aug. 24, with one of the worst killing frosts experienced in 50 years. There was significant damage to local crops, particularly those that were still quite green.

Many people in Red Deer said that their gardens had been destroyed by the cold, with the exception of root crops such as potatoes, beets and carrots.

Things improved slightly toward the end of the month, but early September brought more cold and wet weather.

A severe hailstorm swept across central Alberta on the first of the month from Rocky Mountain House to Three Hills. There was significant and widespread damage.

A lot of snow fell on Sept. 5, followed by another hard frost. There were photos of people at Red Deer Farmers’ Market on the Labour Day weekend wearing their parkas.

A concert with Bryan Adams at Big Valley on the Labour Day weekend was hard hit. The site had been selected because early September was normally warm and dry. The weather was now the opposite.

The performance set for the Saturday had to be postponed to the holiday Monday. As to be expected, the crowds dropped off considerably.

Nevertheless, some 25,000 fans toughed out the miserable weekend and took in the rescheduled concert.

Meanwhile, the merchants in the village of Big Valley reported booming business, as many campers showed up for extra supplies, particularly for things that would help them warm up.

Yet another wet snowstorm hit in the middle of the month, accompanied by several more killing frosts.

Many local farmers reported that the promising-looking crops of mid-August had been damaged so severely that the best they could now expect was to use the grain for feed.

In southern Alberta, farmers reported that their crops were now a 100 per cent writeoff.

The weather finally improved at the end of the month. The third hottest day of the year was recorded on Sept. 30, with temperatures more than 29 C.

Farmers began to hope that a late Indian summer would finally allow them to harvest what was left of their badly damaged crops.

October was drier than normal, but there were several bouts of cold weather.

There was snow on Thanksgiving Day. Temperatures dropped below -10 C in the following week.

Consequently, many could be forgiven for thinking that the autumn of 1992 had not brought much for which they could be truly thankful.

Red Deer historian Michael Dawe’s column appears every Wednesday.

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