With this rather boring, bland autumn weather pattern, it's time to start some interesting weather discussions. So I was thinking, what was the most impactful weather event of my life (or the life of anyone I know personally)?
Living most of my younger life in Ontario, with the dynamic weather they have in that region, I had to think about it quite a while. What it boils down to is, how close did I ever come to dying in a storm?
And frankly, I'm quite lucky to be alive (if anyone can say that in 2020).
Closest call was probably this -- in August 1971 I was on a canoe trip in a wilderness area (Algonquin Park) in central Ontario. My connection to the weather at that pre-internet point of time was merely that I was operating a personal weather station which was being minded by friends, about 200 miles to the southwest of where this happened. And it was four or five days into the trip, so whatever slight pre-trip ideas I had about weather had pretty much expired (this was back in the days when models went about two or three days and I had no access to them anyway).
We came around a bend heading south on a warm, humid day and realized that a storm was quickly moving in. Hills to our south and west had prevented much of a view of that until the two of us realized that we had to get to shore, but the only option was a half mile ahead of us. Into a steadily rising southwest wind we paddled as hard as we could for about fifteen minutes, and scrambled onto the shore in a steady torrential downpour, winds of probably 40-50 knots and frequent lightning. We just threw a tarp over everything and waited it out under some big trees. That could have ended the way several other canoe trips ended in the same region, with a drowning (later in the 1970s, a whole party of kids on a multi-canoe trip on the nearby Ottawa River ran into a similar situation and it ended up being a mass casualty outcome).
I've mentioned once or twice experiencing the derecho of early morning July 15, 1995 -- but we had a basement to ride out that storm in case it blew the house apart (an F-2 tornado embedded in our cell luckily pulled off the ground a few miles west of us after wrecking a marina on a nearby lake).
Then there were any number of snowstorms where yours truly was driving in bad to terrible conditions, never once went off the road but had to wait out one snow squall for about three hours which was scary because I couldn't pull far enough off the shoulder to feel that nobody driving the highway could possibly hit me -- however, as I recall, nobody drove by (this was also in the early 1970s and at a point in my life where I had much less connection to weather forecasting than I would have at any point after 1976). So while I probably knew from the general situation that it was a poor driving night, I was at the end of a weekend visit with friends who were all going somewhere too, from a house in the middle of nowhere, so no real options but to risk the drive. I ended up getting back to my home base which was very briefly in Toronto at that point, in the dawn.
Driving in the winter in Canada is not a very appealing proposition. Yes, most Canadians have some skills in winter driving, but many urban residents do not and get into trouble on longer drives than their neighbourhoods. Road maintenance is as good as it can be, I suppose, but in some heavy snowfall events that breaks down to no maintenance at all (more than a few times I've heard a newscast saying "the storm was so bad the plows were called off the roads.") ... and then they close the roads, but maybe you're already on that stretch and it can be very challenging to get safely through.
I've never been directly impacted by a flood, but I have recorded rainfalls at various locations up to 7" within 12 hours -- that one just flooded out all the ditches in the flat area around my house but there were no nearby creeks that could flood.
Minus -40 temperatures have had impacts too, but not life threatening. One day in January 1976, in Ontario's snow belt, even the daytime -25 to -30 was cold enough to cause a lot of dead batteries, and I remember that a tow truck that I had called in was also unable to keep going, so a larger tow truck was called in to get all of us going (not sure why I had bothered, could have just stayed put until it warmed up). The following night the temperature was as low as -41 C and you could hear trees cracking in the frost (I was briefly outside with a flashlight reading my screen thermometer). That -40 was duplicated on two occasions where I lived in January 1994 (this was maybe 100 km east of the earlier location, in Lakefield, Ontario). Those were both Sunday mornings but I manged to get my vehicle going thanks to a block heater.
Extreme heat has also never had any big impacts on my life, but I've experienced as hot as 47 C in Las Vegas and St George Utah in August 2011 on a trip to the Utah back country. Thankfully most of the scenic parts of Utah are a lot higher in elevation than that stretch, so a really hot day is 35-40 rather than mid 40s. And they tend to get frequent afternoon thunderstorms over that country, unlike Vegas which gets maybe one or two days with any rain at all in their summer climate.
So how about yourselves? Anyone come close to death due to a weather event?