Discover the Massive Snowstorm that Crushed Canada in May… Yes, May!

Written by Kristin Hitchcock
Updated: May 29, 2023
© HeyDebbie/
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Even in Canada, May isn’t full of huge snowstorms. The largest recorded snowstorm in Canada caused 145 cm of snow to fall on February 11, 1999. However, the largest snowstorm in May “only” caused 48.5 cm of snow to fall.

That’s a lot of snow, but it isn’t nearly as much as the largest snowstorm.

According to my research, this large May snowstorm hit Calgary in 1885, leading to just over 19 inches of snow falling. This snowstorm still holds the record as the largest amount of snow to land in one day during May in Canada.

As you might imagine, this storm led to powerlines toppling, schools closing, and traffic backing up. Emergency services did not have a good time during this snowstorm. Some people were stranded in their vehicles, and many had to get around by walking (as their cars couldn’t handle the snow).

However, many residents did enjoy making igloos and snow tunnels in their backyards. I imagine the kids probably had tons of fun.

Sadly, the storm was a surprise for many farmers, too. Most had already planted their crops. However, some farmers reported that the snow also damaged the local bug population, leading to increased yields.

Sunrise sky over the Calgary skyline
Calgary usually gets at least one day of snow in May – sometimes two.


How Often Does Calgary Get Snow in May?

Calgary usually gets at least one day of snow in May – sometimes two. However, the average amount of snow is only 2.63 inches, which is far less than the large 1885 storm.

Spring in Calgary tends to be rather short. The high temperatures in May are in the 50s and 60s. Therefore, the town tends to go straight from snow into summer temperatures.

Overall, Calgary has an average of 24.76 inches of snow each year.

So, it seems that snow in May is not uncommon for Calgary, but it can vary in amount and intensity depending on the year and the weather conditions. The town getting over 40 cm of snow in May is rare and hasn’t come close to happening again.

Effects on Wildlife

Animals may have had difficulty finding food during this storm, especially since many expected spring.

©Harry Collins Photography/

Calgary does get snow in May regularly, but the snowstorm of 1885 was massive. As you might imagine, this probably caused significant difficulties for the local wildlife. Sadly, few studies have explored how animals react to these large storms, and no records were kept then.

However, Calgary is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Coyotes, deer, beavers, porcupines, and skunks are common in the city. Once you get outside the suburbs, bears, cougars, wolverines, elk, and moose may even be found. All these animals probably felt the effects of the snowstorm.

Animals may have had difficulty finding food during this storm, especially since many expected spring. Some may have just come out of their winter homes, only to find tons of snow on the ground. However, these animals were likely used to lots of snow and cold weather, so most likely adapted to the snow.

Frosts and snowstorms occurring so late in the season can damage trees, shrubs, and other plants. Wildlife may rely on these plants for food. If they are damaged, animals may have trouble finding food all year.

Some damage may have been minor, like a broken branch or two. However, others may have produced far fewer or no fruits.

Many wildlife species can adapt to the cold by changing their physiology and behaviors. These changes may have occurred during this larger storm, as the temperature was lower than usual.

However, the storm’s impact likely varied from individual animal to individual animal. Some wildlife species may have gotten along just fine, while others may have had a harder time.

The Featured Image

Snow Storm in Montreal on 16 Jan, 2021
Even in Canada, May isn't full of huge snowstorms.
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