P.E.I. weather calendar is something to talk about

Mary MacKay
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Climate Research Lab director Adam Fenech and climate station manager Don Jardine have put together P.E.I.’s first weather trivia challenge that has snippets of weather stories for each of the 365 calendar days in 2015 and more.

Weather trivia calendar for 2015, Some Weather We’re Having!, co-authored by Don Jardine, Adam Fenech, published by Climate Research Lab at UPEI

There’s nothing like the weather as a conversation starter.

There’s sure to be a whirlwind of banter when weather buffs get their hands on the 2015 Prince Edward Island weather trivia calendar, Some Weather We’re Having!.

Co-authored by Don Jardine and Adam Fenech and published by the Climate Research Lab at UPEI, this first-of-its-kind weather trivia calendar is awash with 365 stories about real local weather events from across the Island over the past 150 years and their impact on Islanders’ everyday lives.

“There are so many stories in there; there are some sad ones and some funny ones. Everybody has a story, we could probably fill a hundred calendars,” says Jardine who is a semi-retired environmental consultant but is a part-time climate station manager at the Climate Research Lab, of which Fenech is director.

The two recently put their like minds together for the P.E.I. weather trivia calendar project, tapping into Jardine’s stockpile of photographic images and research that he’d been gathering since 2009 when he was working on a climate change project.

It was then that he realized that there were many weather-related stories that permeated the Island’s oral history, one being the Goose River Trap Buster.

“So people would say there was this big storm (called) the Goose River Trap Buster, but they couldn’t tell me the date,” Jardine says. So he began researching various weather events, often using the www.islandnewspapers.ca to source older issues of The Guardian, for example.

He eventually found references to that infamous Goose River Trap Buster storm that occurred on May 24, 1953, in which waves of up to nine metres (30 feet) high and winds of 99 kilometres (62 miles) were reported over a 24-hour period, resulting in local fishers losing their gear during prime lobster fishing time.

“It’s that impact, and as a climatologist (I was interested in) just learning about the magnitude of things. We thought people might want to know about those stories as well,” Fenech adds of their decision to put together the 2015 P.E.I. weather trivia calendar.

Other add-ons to the calendar are sections such as lists of tornados and waterspouts that have occurred on P.E.I., the earliest British weather account for the Island, which was written in 1765 by the first surveyor general of British North America, Samuel Holland, who conducted the original land survey of the new British colony, the Yankee Gale of 1851 and a harrowing tale of an ill-fated ice boat crossing in the late 1800s that resulted in the death of a Harvard-trained doctor who was on his way home to practice.

“The storm with the most snow was White Juan in 2004, which is not that long ago,” Jardine says.

“But I think a lot of the problem before the 1960s was that you didn’t have the snow removal equipment and people didn’t have the capacity to deal with snow that they do today. So things were a lot harder.

“(For example) there was a story about a fellow in Donaldston (in 1905) who had to dig a 70-foot tunnel to his barn from his house (by hand) because the snow was so high.”

One storm that severely impacted P.E.I. was the January 1956 ice storm that levelled pretty much all of the power poles west of Summerside.

“There was no electricity till probably the end of April for most of West Prince,” Jardine says. “I remember one story about one community (Northam) that had just got the power lines through in October of 1955. They’d disconnected their old hand pumps (for water) and put in electric pumps and all of this. Then the ice storm hits four months later so they were again without power and had to go back to the old system of kerosene lamps and all this. So it really impacted their lifestyle and their day-to-day lives.”

There are also some funny weather stories included in the 365 days of trivia in the calendar.

Everyone knows that pigs can’t fly, but they did, in fact, swim on one not-so-fine day in Mount Stewart.

“When the storm surge came in during the Kenney Inaugural Storm in (January of) 1961 it flooded the road and Earl Jay’s barn. So the pigs got out of the barn and they were swimming on the main street in Mount Stewart,” says Jardine who, as an enthusiastic weather chaser, had also accrued an impressive collection of photographs pertaining to local weather events and their effects, the top 12 of which are the visual focus for the 12-month calendar.

Even though the official launch of the calendar is a little more than a week away, it has already generated a generous conversational buzz.

“Everybody has their own story as well, so we’re collecting them,” Fenech says. “We even had to put aside stories for this calendar so it looks like we’re probably going to do one the following year because we have so many stories and we’re also encouraging people to send us their stories for the calendar.”

P.E.I.’s dramatic changing weather can have an intense effect on the people who live here.

“Because of the nature of the Island, the way that we live, we’re very (affected by) it; sometimes it keeps us at home or away from school and sometimes it drags us to the beaches because it’s so nice,” Fenech says.

“But the weather really controls a lot of what we do and who we are. We say in our calendar ‘Our weather is our story.’ It’s the stories around the weather that are so intriguing.”

AT A GLANCE

Fast facts

The official release of the Some Weather We're Having! 2015 P.E.I. Weather Trivia Calendar is May 20, 7-9 p.m., at Beaconsfield’s Carriage House, 2 Kent St., Charlottetown. A light lunch will be offered. Adam Fenech, Don Jardine, Waldron Leard and retired Maritime Electric employees will share historic P.E.I. weather stories. There will be entertainment by Teresa Doyle, a display of antique weather instruments and photos documenting P.E.I. scenery and weather events.

This event is free, but registration is required by May 16 by visiting upei.ca/climate or by calling 620-5221.

Half of the calendar's profits will be directed towards Climate Research Lab projects on the Island. The calendars are $17.54 plus HST for an even $20 and will be available at the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation sites across P.E.I., Murphy's Pharmacies, and online at www.peiweathercalendar.ca, when that website site is completed soon.

Other weather stories from the Some Weather We're Having! 2015 P.E.I. Weather Trivia Challenge Calendar include the following: Unable to land at Charlottetown Airport due to thick fog in 1943, an RCAF bomber dropped depth charges (bombs) on Mount Edward Road to save fuel; "Stormy Michael David Kennedy" was born in Freetown in 1992 during a severe snowstorm that required a trip to the hospital behind snow plows; A tornado in the Albany area in 1935 sent a 12-year-old boy airborne while holding three chickens, but he boy landed safely still holding his three chickens; The worst railway accident on P.E.I., which killed four men, occurred during a heavy snowstorm in 1932 when Train #33 ran into Train #211 which was stalled in a four-metre snow pile at Handrahan's Cutting near Tignish.

Organizations: Climate Research Lab, The Guardian, Yankee Gale Northam Carriage House Maritime Electric PEI Museum Heritage Foundation Charlottetown Airport

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, British North America, Mount Stewart Summerside West Prince Charlottetown Mount Edward Road Freetown Albany Tignish

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