05 September 2019

The drought of 1846

In the midst of the Irish Potato Famine, exacerbated by damp conditions, Ottawa was in a drought.

From the Bytown Packet for 5 September 1846

Intense Drought —The oldest inhabitant does not remember a dryer year, taken altogether, than this.  All the small streams have been dried up long since; and the farmers up in the inland townships of Goulbourn, Huntley, &c., are suffering much for water to feed their cattle. The Ottawa is lower than it was in any part of 1842 when it was lower than ever it was previously known to be.— 
This great river is actually fordable at the rapids above the Chaudiere — in fact a boy, with safety, can wade across the river.

Although far from being amongst the worst droughts it was not localized. The New York Herald, 26 August, 1846, reprinted the following from the Rochester American:

The dry weather now prevailing is very remarkable and oppressive. We have had next to no rain for three weeks. The sky is brass, and the earth iron. On Saturday a few drops of rain fell, scarcely enough to lay the dust. Gardens suffer, and not gardens alone—corn, potatoes, and spring crops generally, will be most seriously injured unless we shall be favoured with an immediate supply of rain. In the south part of the county it has been even more intense and long-continued than here. Streams are low to a degree nearly unprecedented. 

There are no weather records for Ottawa and vicinity. In Toronto June was 30% drier than normal, July 18% wetter. August 1846 had only 56% of normal rainfall.

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