Remembering the Toronto Flood of 2013: July 8: Snapshots in History

July 8, 2017 | John P.

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This week, take a moment to remember the rain storm of July 8, 2013 that produced the single wettest day in the history of the Greater Toronto Area. Raveena Aulakh, environment reporter for the Toronto Star, wrote the article entitled “Likely wettest moment in Toronto’s history” (Toronto Star, July 9, 2013, GT1) in which Environment Canada’s senior climatologist David Phillips was quoted as saying “This is likely the wettest moment in Toronto’s history.” The article continued that more than ninety millimetres of rain was recorded at Pearson International Airport in a two-hour period from 4:30 p.m. onward. Up to this point, the wettest day in Toronto’s history had been October 15, 1954 when Hurricane Hazel brought 121.4 millimetres of rainfall that day. The previous wettest day in July was July 28, 1980 with 118.5 millimetres of rain falling over that day, well over the usual 75 millimetres of rain expected for a summer July day in Toronto.

Toronto Star reporter Tess Kalinowski, in her July 9, 2013 article “Wild storm wreaks havoc in GTA: Emergency services, utility companies swamped with calls as residents dealt with backed up drains, overflowing waterways” (page GT1), outlined the impact that fell upon Torontonians the day before: “A deluge of more than 100mm of rain knocked out power and wreaked chaos on the evening commute Monday, forcing some motorists to abandon their cars as flooding washed out roads and suspended service on long stretches of subway and GO lines… The Toronto Police Marine Unit was pressed into service about 9 p.m. to rescue passengers stranded for hours on a 5:30 p.m. Richmond Hill-bound GO train that became stuck on the flooded tracks near the Don River…”

To view the articles in full, please access the Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.

Globe and Mail reporters Vidya Kauri and Kaleigh Rogers, writing the article entitled “One-two punch overloads infrastructure: Flash flooding widespread as Toronto area hit with more rain in one day than it normally gets” (Globe and Mail, July 9, 2013, A1), also provided context as to what happened: “Two separate thunderstorms, one right on the heels of the other, delivered more rainfall in Toronto than the city sees on average during the entire month of July. The storms caused major transit delays, road closures, power outages, flight cancellations and flooding throughout the city... Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said this is the wettest July in more than 30 years… Sixty of the previous 100 days have seen rainfall in the area – saturating the ground and making it impossible to withstand more water…”

To view this article in full, please access the Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.

Roughly one month after the July 2013 floods, the Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated that insured property damage from the July 8, 2013 weather event was already greater than $850 million. The City of Toronto’s response to the flooding was to initiate over a ten-year period the expenditure of $3.1 billion beginning in 2014 to improve storm water and wastewater collection systems and their ability to handle extreme weather occurrences.

Consider borrowing Flood Forecast, by Robert W. Sandford from Toronto Public Library.

Flood forecast climate risk and resiliency in Canada  

This book covers both the flooding affecting the Greater Toronto Area in July 2013 and the flooding affecting southern Alberta in June 2013, including the flooding that occurred in the City of Calgary. (For comparative purposes on the southern Alberta flooding, interested readers might also wish to try the following title: The Flood of 2013: A Summer of Angry Rivers in Southern Alberta, by the Calgary Herald; foreword by Naheed Nenshi, c2013.)

Postscript: The debate about climate change and its effects continues as extreme weather events occur with some degree of intensity, even in 2013 alone: The floods in southern Alberta in June 2013, the flooding in the Greater Toronto Area in July 2013, and the ice storm affecting Toronto and other communities in December 2013. Undoubtedly, one will look ahead to future books dealing with the flooding that has plagued the Toronto Islands in 2017, owing to overabundant rainfall and high water levels on Lake Ontario.

Please see also the following blog posts on weather-related local history topics:

Remembering the Toronto Islands: April 13: Snapshots in History

Remembering the December 20-23, 2013 Ice Storm: Snapshots in History

Remembering Hurricane Hazel: October 15: Snapshots in History

Remembering the “Great” Snowstorm of 1944: December 11-12: Snapshots in History