Ag Weather Forum

Harsh Winds Hit Prairies

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
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Crop year precipitation has been short of average across the Prairies, and helped drive damaging windstorms in mid-October. (AAFC graphic by Nick Scalise)

Strong windstorms are not unheard-of in the Canadian Prairies, but the event of Oct. 17 still is extreme. DTN Canadian Grains Analyst Cliff Jamieson, who lives in Calgary, Alberta, offered this description of the big storm:

“Biggest news this week was 60-80 mph winds across most of Alberta and Saskatchewan on Tuesday, with a number of prairie fires starting in both provinces. A number of farms were lost, 67 rail cars were blown over in one location and a number of rail cars were blown off of a trestle bridge. A number of communities in both provinces were evacuated or on alert (including my family) but fortunately no towns were lost. Some crop is left to come off in northern Alberta, while canola swaths do not mix well with wind and significant losses will be reported. Much of southern Saskatchewan has received less than 60% of normal precipitation since April 1, leaving the Prairies vulnerable.”

The Prairies' dryness goes along with extreme dryness that affected the U.S. Northern Plains during spring and summer 2017. The entire crop year, precipitation totals were no greater than about 15 to 20% below average. Central and southern Saskatchewan had precipitation totals that were no more than half the average total amount. For the genesis of the windstorm, a sharp warm-cold boundary that was located farther north than is typical in the Northern Hemisphere autumn interacted with a deep area of low pressure that formed in the Gulf of Alaska to give an extra charge to the wind development.

Crop impact is mitigated by harvest progress. For example, Saskatchewan’s total crop harvest is estimated at 98% complete as of Oct. 16. That doesn’t lessen the damage that was done, of course.

The last of October stays dry for the Prairies, thus making the region vulnerable to more damage if the winds pick up again. There will be some heavy precipitation in the West Coast during the next week, but moisture is not expected to cross the Rockies appreciably to offer significant dryness relief.

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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