Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Ottawa 1887 snowfall impacts

With this winter's near record snowfall the City section of the 15 April Ottawa Citizen publishes my letter on Ottawa's snowfall. Records for the winter of 1886-87 show 463.3 cm of snow fell, nearly 20 cm more than the official record of 444.1 cm for 1970-71 being quoted. Environment Canada's official record book uses data from the airport weather station which only started operation in November 1938.

In the letter I relate the weather to the federal election going on. There's a lot more in the newspapers of the time that didn't get in the letter.

Newspapers of 19th century paid scant attention to the weather. Not that it wasn't important, but the amount of snowfall was quantified more by its impacts, especially how much trains were delayed, than the amount.

A Montreal to Ottawa train 80 hours late at the end of February was the measure of a record snowfall. Environment Canada's web site shows that 30.5 cm fell on 27 February 1887, 25.4 cm the previous day. That was on top of more than a metre of snow that had been reported since the 11th.

The snow could stop a train, but not a bullet despite the belief of one of the local militia officers. This from the Ottawa Journal.

" Some days ago it was announced that Major Anderson of the 43rd had expressed confidence in the theory that a bank of snow would offer sufficient resistance to stop any bullet. This theory was put to the test on Saturday afternoon. The officers present were Major Todd and Lieuts. Cote, Grey and Winter of the G.G.F.G. and Capt. Evans and Lieut. Rogers of the 43rd. A large mound of snow had been constructed ten feet thick at the base.

The test was first made at a range of 200 yards. The firing was done by Lieuts. Grey and Winter while Major Todd and Capt. Evans kept watch at the mound. Those fired at 200 yards were heard to strike the fence 200 yards in the rear of the mound. The bullets fired from 500 yards likewise penetrated the mound at the thickest part."

1 comment:

WJM said...

Hey! That sounds like it could be an episode of Mythbusters!!!