‘Best summer in Canada’
Climatologist confirms it:
T was a Goldilocks summer: not too warm, not too cold, not too wet, but just right.
That’s according to David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada, who said the rest of the country would have given up its eye teeth for the summer weather Manitoba enjoyed.
It’s the kind of weather that keeps people outside, the grass green, farmers’ crops fed, mosquitoes nowhere to be found, forests without fires, water temperatures warm and air conditioning bills low.
“I can’t speak more highly about your weather this summer. It’s almost as if that should be on your bumper stickers: we had the best summer in Canada. It’s almost so good you can’t care how the winter is going to be,” Phillips said.
“We’ve seen lots of dry and hot weather in the west, and to the east, there’s been coolish and wetish weather. Quebec and Ontario are still waiting for summer to arrive and it’s almost over. It’s as if you’ve been hoarding all the good weather. You should send some of it out to us.”
Manitoba was the only province to get the best of the weather on both sides of its borders — the dry heat in the west and the cold and wet in the east — combining into a perfect sweet spot in the heart of the country.
By any possible metric — precipitation, temperature, warm and dry weather on weekends — Manitoba hit the jackpot, Phillips said.
“It was sunshine symbols right across the seven-day forecast. It’s almost as if the weather was delightfully boring — which, let me tell you, is what you want. There’s nothing disparaging I can say, it was golden. You’ve used up all your IOUs, so to speak. You’ve got nothing left in the bank,” he continued.
While Manitoba had fewer days than normal when the high hit above 30 C, the temperature often sat in the 27 to 29 C range, Phillips said.
“You can drink beer in that afternoon high. You don’t need it 30 degrees.”
What that means is the number of really hot and humid days were significantly lower than normal, while Winnipeggers routinely enjoyed temperatures that were warm but not scorching.
Between May to August, the province received 168 millimetres of rain, while normally it would see 296 mm. That’s what Phillips describes as “pleasantly dry, not critically dry,” since backyard gardeners and farmers still got the rain when they needed it.
O one could say Tuesday what might be wrong physically with the intersection of highways 1 and 16, where six people have died in the past 12 days.
The intersection has traffic lights, signage, reduced speeds and good sight lines — and three incidents in less than two weeks in which people have died.
But truckers who pass the crossroads west of Portage la Prairie thousands of times value grade separation — not ground-level interchanges — as the best way to keep major highways as safe as possible — even though they’re aware that overpasses, cloverleafs and other infrastructure improvements can cost tens of millions of dollars.
“Is it optimally designed? No,” said Terry Shaw, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association. “In general, we absolutely support grade separations.
“Is that our country’s reality? Unfortunately, no.”
Overpasses and cloverleafs are expensive, Shaw lamented Tuesday. “Is it an area worthy of one? We believe so. Is it worthy of being the next one? We don’t have that information.
“We’re awash with at-grade interchanges,” said Shaw, who believes the Perimeter Highway has many groundlevel interchanges that the Pallister government considers more urgent for the provincial infrastructure budget than the highway 1/16 intersection.
Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler expressed condolences Tuesday, but wouldn’t comment on any possible infrastructure work at the intersection.
“Our government extends its deepest condolences to the families impacted by these tragic collisions. As the RCMP continues its investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment specifically on these unfortunate events,” Schuler said in a prepared statement.
“The safety of Manitobans is our government’s leading priority in infrastructure. Every person on our roadways deserves to travel safely and always arrive home. We will continue to monitor all roadways and intersections in the province in order to identify those that may require enhanced safety measures,” he said.
The NDP did not respond to a request for comment.
Manitoba needs a comprehensive road safety strategy, Shaw said. Even without building grade separations,
NWinnipeg saw 34 days with some precipitation, while normally the city would see 47 days, which equals more stretches of dry weather.
But what’s most important, Phillips said, is where those dry spells fell.
“It was the weekend. Oh my God, we live for the weekends as Canadians. In July and August, there were 18 days that fell on weekends or holiday Mondays, and it only rained on two of those days. It didn’t matter technology and design can help, especially anything that reduces distractions, he said.
Shaw said that the NDP was considering a grade separation at the intersection back in 2007, but that fell down the priority list thanks to CentrePort development and the sudden need for infrastructure dollars in the wake of 2011 flooding.
Shaw could not say how many similar intersections in Manitoba have received grade separations. Three major approaches to nearby Portage la Prairie all have grade separations, he said.
Robert Kurylko, a senior transportation engineer associate with Stantec, which designs major construction projects, said Manitoba has not done a grade separation on that small a scale in a long time. It is difficult to estimate without study, he added, because Highway 16 terminates on the north side while a provincial road continues south from the intersection. A railway crossing and cemetery in the immediate area further complicate grade separation.
The RCMP has stepped up its presence in the area, media relations officer Tara Seel said Tuesday. “We have increased patrols and enforcement in the area starting immediately after the collision on Aug. 27, and that continues. We are also doing an education piece through media interviews and you will see safety tips coming out on our social media channels,” she said.
CAA Manitoba said it’s heard lots of complaints from drivers about worn roads and flooding along Highway 1, but no specific concerns about that intersection. The CAA and MPI both urge drivers to be totally focused when approaching significant interchanges.
“Speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving are three preventable causes of collisions. Whether you’re driving on the highway or in the city, the safest thing to do is to drive to conditions, be alert and be conscientious of other motorists. Those three key habits are important all the time, but become even more so when you’re driving somewhere unfamiliar,” said Erika Miller, CAA Manitoba’s public and media relations specialist.
MPI has not raised specific concerns with the province, said spokesman Brian Smiley: “Driving requires the operator’s full attention and concentration. A split second of distraction can result in a lifetime-changing event.” if people wanted to go barbecuing, tenting, camping, off to festivals or off to the cottage, it was spectacular,” Phillips said.
Ken Nawolsky, the city’s superintendent of insect control, is also singing this summer’s praises.
The city had a “record-breaking year” with “historic lows” for mosquito levels.
Normally at the peak of summer, Nawolsky and his team will find an average of 78 mosquitoes in traps around the city. This year, the highest number was 19, which he describes as a “temporary blip.” On average, trap counts hover in the five to 10 range.
“We didn’t have a need to fog this year as we avoided the heavy rainfalls. And come these last three weeks, we’ve had no rain which means there won’t be any future generations of mosquitoes. We won’t see any more of them for the season,” Nawolsky said.
Noel Bernier, a shareholder in multiple restaurants in the city, said the weather was also a treat for the food industry.
Of all the restaurants he’s involved with, the ones with patios saw an increase in sales, while those without saw a directly proportional decrease.
“We’ve definitely noticed it. The amount of money being spent in the city doesn’t really change, but the flow of that money is highly affected by the weather,” he said.
“It would have been generalized around the city, absolutely. It’s actually inarguable. More money was flowing to anything outdoorsy — places with patios, ice-cream shops, even The Forks’ outdoors people, I’m sure, had a great summer.”
No matter you want to chalk it up, Manitobans — and Winnipeggers especially — had nothing to complain about this summer, even if they’ll still find a way to, Phillips said.
“There’s always going to be someone complaining about the weather. Either it’s too hot or it’s too cold. But you really did have the Goldilocks weather this summer. It was right where you wanted it to be and with those weekends it gets bumped up to 10 out of 10.”
Kieran (in hammock) soaks up the summer heat Tuesday afternoon with Gabby (right), Darby and dog Coco on Chestnut Street in Wolseley.
Many observers are calling for an overpass at the intersection of highways 1 and 16 following several recent deaths.
Emergency crews and STARS stabilize an injured driver at highways 1 and 248.