Weird Southern Alberta Weather

Sitting here listening to the rain pound against the windows of my office upstairs in the old 1910 Galt Hospital, has made me think of some fun weather stories of southern Alberta past. Here's a few to make you remember that it could always be worse.


  • 1903 — May — Spring snowstorm hits and is remembered for the depth of snow, some three feet on the level. It came at a most inopportune time — in May after the cattle were spread out on the ranges. Losses were very heavy. Two young boys died when caught out in the snowstorm.

  • 1930’s — Between 1933 and 1937, the Prairies experienced only 60% of its normal rainfall. Thousands of livestock starved, crops withered and 250,000 people across the region abandoned their land to seek better lives elsewhere.

  • 1961 — West Records Single Driest Year. Many areas in the drought-stricken Prairies received only 45% of normal precipitation. The duration, severity and size of the area effected made this drought the worst on record. Losses in wheat production alone were $668 million, 30% more than in the previous worst year, 1936.

  • 1964 — December 15 — “Great Blizzard” lashes southern Prairies. Heavy snows, accompanied by 90km/h winds and –34˚C temperatures paralyzed the southern Prairies. Three people froze to death and thousands of animals perished.

  • 1966 — January 6 — Pincher Creek -- A Chinook wind sent the temperature soaring 21˚C (37.8˚F) in four minutes.

  • 1967 — April 17-20 and 27-29 Blizzards A series of intense winter storms dropped a record 175 cm (5 feet 9 inches) of snow on southern Alberta. Thousands of cattle, unable to forage for food in the deep snow, perished on the open range. It is estimated that 30,000 calves perished. Army units were dispatched to assist in snow clearing, while food, fuel and feed were airlifted into the province. The good news? The Revenue Minister announced that the income tax deadline for residents of southern Alberta was extended two weeks to May 15.

  • 1973 — July 10 — Lethbridge — Temperature soars to 39.4˚C (102.9˚F)

  • Sept 1987-August 1988 — Drought across the southern Prairies. The hottest summer on record, combined with half the normal growing season rainfall and a virtually snow-free previous winter, produced a drought that rivaled the 1930s in terms of intensity and duration of the dry spell. About 10% of farmers and farm workers left agriculture in 1988. Effects of the drought were felt across the country as lower agricultural yields led to higher food and beverage prices for consumers.

  • 1995 — June — Heavy, warm rains in early June, combined with snow melting, resulted in the highest flood in the Oldman River on record since 1911. Major floods also occurred in 1953 and 1964.

  • 2008 — July 1 — A Canada Day thunderstorm dumped more rain in a 90 minute period than Lethbridge generally gets in a month. Caused extensive flooding.

Narrow gauge engine stuck in snow drifts near Winnifred, 1887.   Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19760234134

Narrow gauge engine stuck in snow drifts near Winnifred, 1887. 

Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19760234134

Oldman River in flood, 1902.   Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19961000002

Oldman River in flood, 1902. 

Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19961000002

Dust storm at Pearce, Alberta, November 1942  Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19961000002

Dust storm at Pearce, Alberta, November 1942

Courtesy the Galt Museum & Archives: 19961000002