Quebec’s Famous Forecaster
After a rather divisive provincial election here in Quebec, there is still one thing that holds all Quebecers together: our weather! No-one knows that better than Environment Canada meteorologist André Cantin, who has been the Quebec media contact for all things weather-
related for many years and is also now the province’s Warning Preparedness Meteorologist.
“What I do now, besides my contact with the media, is work with the Department of Public Security as their expert consultant. We’re particularly busy in the spring, for example, in your region the Saint Francois and the Richelieu Rivers are still high. If we get a lot of rain there could be more flooding,” said Mr. Cantin who has worked as a meteorologist with Environment Canada for thirty-three years.
“Our role is to give information and our opinion. Problems can be prevented or minimized when the authorities know enough in advance about severe weather conditions. We work a lot with Hydro-Quebec and the telecommunications companies. When they know what’s coming they can send crews out to the areas affected ahead of time,” he explained.
Mr. Cantin, besides the emergence of the effects of climate change on the scene, has seen other changes in his field over the years. “It is mostly our tools that have evolved. When I started we would receive satellite images printed on paper to study to make our forecasts. Now we can watch the images on a computer. We also have Doppler radar so we can measure the movement of precipitation and see what’s going on in the middle of a storm.”
One of those ‘new tools’ allowed Mr. Cantin to watch one of the century’s most devastating storms as it unfolded at the end of October, 2012. “I watched the satellite images of Hurricane Sandy on the computer. In my thirty-three years as a meteorologist I’ve never seen a storm with such intensity and such impact. It’s a real challenge but if we can forecast well, it can have a major impact in reducing loss of life and property damage. Our work is very useful but we need the collaboration of the media,” said the meteorologist.
Possibly the most popular Federal representative in Quebec, if you consider the number of times Mr. Cantin is quoted or interviewed by the media, challenged only by his co-worker at Environment Canada, fellow meteorologist René Heroux, Mr. Cantin will get a lot of phone-calls when the weather turns ugly. “We’ll typically get abut seventy or eighty calls a day from the media during a bad storm. During one bad winter storm in December, about four or five years ago, we received one hundred and thirty calls from the media between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm. That was our busiest day. Radio interviews aren’t too bad; they usually last only two or three minutes. But when we get a call from Public Security and have conference calls with municipalities and professional officials, that can last a lot longer,” said Mr. Cantin about his job. As they say, “When it rains, it pours!”
Of course it’s not only the media and governments who want and need to know about the weather and it’s not only the Environment Canada media line that can start ‘ringing off the hook’ when the clouds roll in. “Our automatic Environment Canada weather line, in Quebec, gets about ten million calls a year. And the Environment Canada weather website is the most consulted website in the Federal government!” said Mr. Cantin.
When asked what he believed were the biggest misconceptions people had about the field of meteorology, Mr. Cantin commented: “Lots of people think the forecast is always wrong. They don’t consider that, as an example, the forecast for the Estrie region is very general because the Estrie is a big area so we have to look at the big picture.”
Mr. Cantin is also surprised that many people don’t believe in climate change or global warming because of the cold winters we’ve had lately. “You don’t look at the difference between one year and the next, but at the tendencies over five or six year periods. There is not a good understanding of the difference between climate and weather.”
“When not on the job, do people still ask you about the weather?” I wondered. “Always,” was his immediate reply. “The weather is the first subject of conversation when people know it’s your field. There is also a lot of teasing about the job, so you have to have a thick skin. But most people can see that the accuracy is improving.”
“People in warm countries are not as pre-occupied with the weather as we are here. We can have very big variations in the weather, even in just a twelve hour period; sun in the morning and then violent hail in the afternoon on your head. So the weather is a big pre-occupation not just in Quebec, but right across Canada,” commented Mr. Cantin.
“For thirty-three years I have loved my job and I’m still very motivated by it. I encourage young people interested in the field of meteorology to consider working as a forecaster or researcher. Environment Canada needs to hire between thirty-five and forty new meteorologists each year and they can usually find only about twenty, so it’s a good career choice,” concluded Mr. Cantin, ever the public communicator!
Cass Funeral Home 545 Dufferin, Stanstead, Quebec Canada on Thursday, May 8th , 2014, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. where friends and family may come to visit. A celebration of her life will take place in the funeral home, at 4 p.m. with Reverend Lise Kuzminska officiating. Donations in her memory may be made to the Research Hospital for Children, St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN U.S.A. 38105. The family of Gisele want to thank the friends and people of Stanstead for all the help and kindness given to her since the passing of Harold in 2012. Without you she would not have survived on her own. Stanstead is truly a unique community. – Rock Island/ Stanstead, Gladys A. (Wheeler) Ellis, 90, died peacefully on December 17th, 2013 at Umass Memorial Healthcare, Worcester Massachusetts. Her husband Charles Ellis died in 1963. She leaves behind her son, Pierce Ellis and his wife Judy of Northborough, Massachusetts, her daughter Linda Ellis Johnson and her husband Joseph of Shrewsbury Massachusetts, four grandchildren Stephanie Sarli, Sharon Lindsay, Cindy Birri, and Tracy O’Neil all residents of Massachusetts, and sister Beatrice Martin of Ontario, Canada, and 13 great grandchildren. She was preceded by brothers, Albert and Tommy and sisters, Ella, Pearl, and Alice. Born in Graniteville, Quebec, Canada and raised in Rock Island, she was the daughter of the late Thomas and Goldie (Hartley) Wheeler. Gladys was employed at Spencer Co. in Rock Island where she was the inspector and head seamstress. She enjoyed sewing, bingo, watching movies and dining out. Most important to her was her family by whom she will be dearly missed. A graveside burial will be held at Crystal Lake Cemetery in Stanstead on May 31st, at 2 p.m.
André Cantin has been with Environment Canada for over thirty years and is also Quebec’s Warning Preparedness Meteorologist.