Discover the Biggest November Snowstorm to Ever Hit Canada

Written by Rob Hayek
Published: November 11, 2023
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Many call Canada the “Great White North” because of how often it snows throughout the year. Therefore, there is a belief that it snows most of the year. But Canada has had severe storms in December, January, and February, usually the most significant months of the year for severe snow.

But there have been other months where snow has fallen down on Canada. Significantly, one particular storm hit the country in October. But what about November?

We are here to give you a complete guide to the worst storms in Canada that have happened in November. Then, we will highlight the biggest November snowstorm ever to hit Canada while describing the devastation it caused.

a big snowstorm in the woods

Massive snowstorms have become a frequent occurrence over the years in Canada.

©Corrado Baratta/Shutterstock.com

Historical Perspective on November Snows in Canada

While Canada does get snow in November, it is not the norm. Moreover, the harsh snow conditions do not typically start until December. But the country has experienced snowfall in November. Moreover, there have been small spurts of snow throughout the month, while there have also been greater amounts of snowfalls in other years.

There has been some significant snowfall recently. Significantly, Ottawa experienced 12.8 cm of snow in a two-day span in November 2019. Likewise, they also experienced 20.7 centimeters of snow on a single day in November 2013. 14.6 centimeters of snow fell on November 18, 2018, in the city.

Edmonton saw 17.4 centimeters of snowfall on two cold days on November 17, 2014, and November 2, 2022, according to Current Weather and Science Facts. The site also revealed that the biggest November snowfall for Vancouver occurred on November 25, 2010.

The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 — “The Big Blow”

One of the largest, if not the largest, storm to ever strike Canada happened in 1913. Ultimately, many dubbed it the “White Hurricane” for the devastation that it caused while starting in marine environments. The massive storm caused several shipwrecks, according to the National Weather Service.

It is still, to this day, the largest marine inland storm to strike Canada. Consequently, the storm brought major damage to the Great Lakes. This storm affected multiple areas around the Great Lakes, affecting Canada and parts of Michigan.

Sailors who used the Great Lakes during this storm suddenly saw more perilous waters. Unfortunately, the warnings did not come fast enough, as weather forecasters used telegraph messages to relay the conditions. At the time, volunteers used flags to warn sailors of worsening conditions. Additionally, they usually relayed this information between 12-24 hours in advance. But none of them saw the storm being this destructive.

The storm brought over 80 MPH of gust winds and 36-foot waves over a six-hour period on November 9, 1913. Sadly, the storm destroyed eight ships and caused 187 lives. It is probably the biggest November snowstorm to ever hit Canada.

The storm did not just affect the Great Lakes. Overall, the massive residue from the storm also affected parts of Minnesota, as well as Illinois and Ohio. This storm was not only the biggest November storm to ever hit Canada but one of the deadliest in American history as well.

Timeline of the Great Lakes Storm of 1913

The Great Lakes Storm did not occur over one day. First, it started on November 7, with experts describing it as moderately severe. The winds around Lake Superior had already risen to 60 miles per hour, with gusts reaching a high of 80 miles per hour, while the blizzard headed toward Lake Huron.

Experts upgraded the storm’s status on November 8 to “severe.” Significantly, the storm covered the entire basin of Lake Superior. One of the ships that the storm first affected was sailing. Sadly, the freighter L.C. Waldo did not anticipate the deadly force of the storm, and a 50-foot wave crushed the ship. Everyone onboard abandoned the ship on the captain’s orders.

The storm rotated on November 9 and headed south for the United States. Additionally, it began affecting parts of Ontario, including London. Those who were sailing felt the brunt of the storm. Meanwhile, those on land felt the powerful effect of the storm’s residue.

By the time November 10 came along, the storm began to head east of London. Following this, the storm lessened as it charged through Eastern Canada until it finally subdued around November 11.

The Power and Terminology of Snowstorms

Snowstorms like the one in 1913 have the immense power to cause massive destruction. Furthermore, heavy storms can paralyze and debilitate an entire city, according to the National Weather Service. There are several categorial terms associated with snow and blizzards.

A blizzard usually entails 35 miles per hour winds combined with snow that reduces visibility. Likewise, blowing snow means that the storm reduces visibility, and one could pick up the snow from the ground. Snow squalls are quick and intense snowstorms that also contain gusty winds. Also, snow showers are brief periods of snowfall. Flurries usually mean snow is falling lightly. Lastly, avalanches are a mass of tumbling snow that usually results from a massive accumulation of snow within 24 hours. Avalanches can push through at 200 miles per hour.

Average November Snowfall for Canadian Cities

Some Canadian cities get more snowfall than others, according to Current Results. Likewise, you are more likely to see a major snowstorm on the Eastern side of Canada than the western side. Some of the bigger cities, like Toronto and Vancouver, do not even rank in the top 10 cities for snow in November. Conversely, you will see Quebec City, Edmonton, and Winnipeg on this list. Montreal just missed the cutoff by one spot, as it ranked 11th in most average centimeters of snowfall in November.

CityCentimetersAverage Days of Snow
Saguenay, Quebec46.614
Quebec City, Quebec32.78
Sudbury, Quebec29.610
Sherbrooke, Quebec29.19
Trois-Riveieres, Quebec 27.16
Thunder Bay, Ontario26.510
Barrie, Ontario22.85
St. John’s, Newfoundland22.44
Winnipeg, Manitoba19.49
Edmonton, Alberta19.18
The figures in this box represent the cities with the highest snowfall average in November.

The Effect of Major Snowstorms on the Economy

Major snowstorms can devastate an economy. For example, when the Great Lakes Storm destroyed much of the area, it cost the country a significant amount of money. There were an estimated $6 million in punitive damages. If adjusting for inflation today, that would equate to $177 million.

The eight ships that sunk also cost the country some supplies they needed. Thus, it provided a delay in transporting goods when the nation needed it during an especially cold winter time. Significant snowstorms can cause a backlog when a country needs supplies. Therefore, Canada has had to prepare for these storms as the years have gone by to better adjust to any sudden stoppages in shipments and adjust for delays.

Until last year, the record for most November snowfall in the city of Wiarton had been in 1982. Then, a massive snowstorm dropped 53 centimeters of snowfall to the area. It was a significant November storm that touched the Great Lakes and dropped in over Ontario. Ironically, the storm also affected much of Buffalo, NY, but completely missed Toronto.

Edmonton has already experienced its first snowfall, as it has already started to snow at night, according to the Government of Canada. Calgary has also experienced some nighttime snow. Meanwhile, Winnipeg is slightly colder than both cities while experiencing cloudy weather during the daytime and snowfall at night.

Saguenay and Quebec City, the cities with the highest average November snowfall in the country, are also starting to experience snow early in the month. Overall, the periods of snow in November are meeting average conditions. This year, it does not look like we will see the biggest November snowstorm ever to hit Canada. Instead, it looks like a calm November is ahead before the winter weather amps up in December.

Snow Storm in Montreal on 16 Jan, 2021

Canada has experienced some great snowstorms in past Novembers.

©HeyDebbie/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © HeyDebbie/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Rob Hayek is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on animals, sports, places, and events. Rob has been writing and researching about animals, sports, places, and events for over 10 years and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Cal State University Fullerton, which he earned in 2009. A resident of California, Rob enjoys surfing and also owns a sports group which allows people from the local community to come together to play sports recreationally.

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