It’s cooler than it was yesterday, but by all accounts, still a very pleasant December day. A Bermuda High ridging into our region is serving up some sun and seasonal temperatures. One hundred years ago, the weather map looked very different.
On December 6th 1917, the morning of the Halifax explosion, an area of low pressure that developed over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, crossed the state of Florida and moved into the Atlantic Ocean. As it made its way up along the eastern seaboard, it was moving into a stalled, cold high: an ideal scenario for the development of a nor'easter; and develop it did! Twenty four hours later, on the morning of Dec. 7, snow started to fall on the ruins of Halifax.
My grade 9 English teacher would be quick to point out that this is a very poignant example of pathetic fallacy: a literary term for the attributing of human emotion to nature.
The city that was dealing with an unparalleled man-made disaster was about to be hit by a punishing, surprise late fall snowstorm. It might be hard to imagine a time when there was no weather app, or 24 hour Weather Channel. But 100 years ago, there was nothing, not even satellites, so meteorology relied almost solely on ground observations. The problem was the post-explosion storm of 1917 tracked mostly offshore. The bands of heavy snow brushed the coastline north of the more populated Eastern Seaboard so there was very little warning for residents of Maine, southern New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.
By the afternoon of December 7th, temperatures dropped to –4 C and the cold north wind was howling at 55 km/h with gusts over 90! It was a full blown blizzard with near 0 visibility and wind chill in the -15 degree range. By the end of the day, more than 40 cm of snow had fallen on the city in ruins. An unimaginable hardship, one hundred years ago today.