Sunday, 22 April 2018

A Blast from the Past - Ottawa’s Weather at its Worst

My next talk is for the Gloucester Historical Society on Sunday, 29 April following a brief Society AGM.
Society President Glenn Clark arranged for some publicity with Erin McCracken, reporter for the local paper, Community Voice of 12 April, 2018.
Here, with permission from Erin, is the text of the article.
There’s something about extreme weather that gets people talking.
“Its something they’ve got experience with. Weather means things to people. It affects their lives,” said John D. Reid, a retired weather expert, author and local historian. “And it keeps on delivering.”
The long-time Hunt Club resident will share his research on some of Ottawa’s extreme weather events during a presentation hosted by the Gloucester Historical Society.
During his upcoming talk at the Greenboro Community Centre on April 29, at 2 p.m., called A Blast from the Past - Ottawa’s Weather at its Worst,’ Reid will delve into:
the ice storm of 1998-99,
the snow storm of 1970-71,
the deadly hurricane-force winds of 1888 that wrought damage across the city and blew down the Roman Catholic Church in Billings Bridge, and 
• the Great Fire of 1870 that devastated the Ottawa Valley and parts of Gloucester Township. “This had almost died down by the time it got to Gloucester and then a big wind storm came up,” Reid said. “It fanned the flames.” 
Reid has been blending his passion for historical research with aspects of his former career as a weather forecaster, then as an atmospheric research scientist before eventually serving as director of policy and international affairs for the Meteorological Service of Canada.
In his upcoming presentation, he will go back as far as the days
of Samuel de Champlain to talk of the first mention of weather in the Ottawa Valley, as well as share the warmest and coldest recorded days in Ottawa and photos of major events, such as the ice storm of 1942.
One key source of historical weather information was William Upton, whose farm is where the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club is today in the Hunt Club community. He kept diaries, which included weather and temperatures.
Late in the winter of 1869, Upton described extreme snowfalls and impassable roads.
“He talks about having to dig a trench to get his cow in the bam,” Reid said, adding there was flooding when milder weather finally arrived in late April and the snow melted.
Glenn Clark, a Blossom Park resident and president of the Gloucester Historical Society, which has its headquarters in Leitrim, said his own family was impacted by some of Ottawa’s most severe weather events.
His great grandfather, Timothy Cutts, was moving his family in 1869 from Ottawa to Gloucester Township. That winter, the area was hammered by blizzard after blizzard.
Cutts got caught up in one especially severe snow storm and had to find shelter in a home at Bank Street and Hunt Club Road.
“That’s part of our family lore,” Clark said. “He got stopped in his tracks by this horrendous blizzard.”
In 1888, a storm with hurricane-force winds whipped across much of Ottawa and the township. The former Ellwood school was damaged and some of the schoolchildren sought refuge at the Cutts’ home, half a block away in what is today the Banff-Ledbury area.
“One of my earliest memories is weather-related,” Clark recalled of a bad storm that hit in June 1958.
His mother got Clark and his brother ready to flee their Blossom Park home when a barn across the street was struck by lightning and caught fire.
“There was hay in the loft and it was blowing across Bank Street onto the roof of our house,” he said, adding his father and uncle were on the roofs of their homes with hoses to douse any hot spots.
Weather events unique to each generation offer a deeper connection to community, said Reid.
“As you live here and start researching things, you realize there’s some interesting history here,” he said.
His free presentation, which begins with the historical society’s annual general meeting, takes place at the Greenboro Community Centre, located at 363 Lorry Greenberg Dr.

The weather predicted for the 29th is far from its worst with temperatures a bit below seasonal.

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