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Our latest snowstorm ever

Not everyone loves them, but I think hashtags are one of the best things about Twitter.

They allow a lot of meta-commentary and ironic joking, which can get annoying (I'm as guilty of that as anyone), but their core functionality allows conversations between people who otherwise don't know each other.

It puts some serendipitous discovery into the social network.

So, at the Brandon Sun, for example, we tag most of our tweets with the #bdnmb hashtag. Anyone else on Twitter who uses that hashtag participates in the same "stream" of tweets, which anyone can see simply by following that hashtag. We also embed a real-time stream of that hashtag on the website, so people can follow it without necessarily being Twitter users themselves.

And so, on Saturday, I happened across this tweet from a person I've never met before, but who included the #bdnmb hashtag, presumably to bring it to wider attention.

It caught my interest because I'm developing a serious case of weather nerd, but also because I didn't recall any June blizzards myself. May, sure, but June? Seemed pretty late.

Anyway, if you're going to ask a weather question, especially about the past, there's a good chance you could come up with an answer — Environment Canada has one of the most comprehensive datasets around.

So I did some quick digging.

Unfortunately, Brandon has had two weather stations — the currently official one, at McGill Field, which has records stretching back to 1942, and a secondary one at the research station, with records back to 1892 — and the two don't always jibe. They can be a degree or two apart, or one will record more rain than the other, that sort of thing.

Still, by comparing and contrasting the two, you can usually get a pretty good sense of what the weather was like on any particular day in the past.

June 1 blizzard, however? Not in my lifetime.

The Brandon airport station (at McGill Field) has never recorded a single flake of measurable snow in June. That's no snow on any June day on any year back to the early 1940s. Nor, for the record, has there ever been snow in July or August. There's generally a dusting of snow each September (0.2 cm), with the most-ever September snow being 4.2 cm on Sept. 29, 1983.

May is a different story. Maybe it was May 1? Well, the record snowfall for May 1 was 6.8 cm, which was in 1986. That actually wasn't a terrible day — it got up to nearly 7ºC and the snow fell just before midnight (it all melted the next day, too, which had a high over 12ºC).

Then I think I found it. The average May only gets 3.8 cm of snow the whole month, but on May 11, 2004, Brandon got 19.8 cm dropped on the city — the most-ever for a May day. That was a two-day snowstorm, too — another 14.4 cm fell on May 12, 2004.

It would have been a shock to the system. Just two days before the snow, on May 9, 2004, temperatures hit 22.2ºC. Luckily, it didn't stick around for long. Temperatures recovered to just under 13ºC by May 15, 2004, although there was another blip of snow on the 21st and there was mre than 100 mm of rain in the last two weeks of the month.

Aside: On average, June is the rainiest month, with an average of 80.7 mm of rain through the month, but the rainiest Brandon day ever was May 6, 1964, when 86.4 mm fell in the 24-hour period.

Okay, so maybe we've traced that crappy spring blizzard to a decade ago — but let's look at some old data from the other weather station.

The other weather station, which has records from 1890, also recalls the blizzard of 2004. And they recall it as even worse.

According to the research station records, some 30.6 cm fell on May 11, 2004 and an additional 21.2 cm fell the next day. That's a two-day total of 51.8 cm — half a metre of snow! — which is fully 50 per cent more than fell at the airport.

The May 11 total (30.6 cm is almost exactly a foot) is also the record for snowfall on any May day, stretching back to 1892.

But what's this? There's a JUNE snowfall record, too?

Yes, if you happened to be around in Brandon on June 3, 1901, you would have been on the receiving end of a record 15.2 cm of snow — the most ever recorded in June by far.

It fact, it's so out of character that I'm not sure how much I trust the data. The only other snowfall EVER in Brandon in June was a trace amount on June 3, 1943, mixed with 13.5 mm of rain the same day.

No other June day in any other year in nearly 125 years had a single flake, but we had half a foot once? Would have been a freak snowfall, for sure.

And in more ways than one — according to Environment Canada, we got that 15.2 cm of snow on a day where the temperature never dropped below 10ºC. Yes, ten degrees Celcius.

Something's fishy, but I'm not sure what.

So I checked the Winnipeg weather. Hmmmm, June 3, 1901 looks like it was wam in Winnipeg, with a hint of rain — and no snow.

So I checked the Brandon Sun archives and … ooooh, I've never seen this Brandon Sun logo before:

Anyway, there's not what you would call a weather story in either that day's paper or the next day's, but there are several little notes referring to the weather. Some planned bicycle races and a baseball game had to be postponed due to "inclement weather," but I supposed that could be snow …


From June 4, 1901 in the Brandon Daily Sun: "Yesterday and last night rain appears to have been very general throughout the country. It has well soaked into the ground and made everything look good and green."

That does not sound like it was written by someone who woke up to a half-a-foot of snow.

I'm going to go out on a limb and declare that the June snowfall is an Environment Canada error that never actually happened (whew!).

That leaves June blizzard-free as far back as the records go.

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