Natural Disasters in Canada

Table of Content


Canada is a large country that faces the risk of various natural hazards such as floods, droughts, tornadoes, and landslides. These disasters have been experienced in the past and have led to huge losses that have affected the residents and the country at large. Natural disasters such as the Goderich tornado and the Alberta floods have led to deaths of people, destruction of property and infrastructure, negative impacts on the economy, and environmental pollution at times. Even though these disasters occur at different places and at different times, they have several characteristics that are common among them as shall be discussed in this paper. This paper looks at two disasters in Canada, their impacts, and comparison between them.

Overview of Two Canadian Natural Disasters

Goderich Tornado

Tornadoes are prevalent in Canada such that the country is ranked second after the US when considering the rate of occurrence of this form of natural disasters. A report that was released by Canada Environment in 2012 stated that about 80-100 tornadoes are experienced each year (Dougherty, 2011). According to Miller, Armstrong, Kaminski, Karlin, Lee, McCarthy, Berkmoes, Walker, Tang, Bainbridge (2017), one of the worst tornadoes was the Goderich Tornado which occurred in Goderich, a place with three sandy lake beaches that are linked by boardwalks. this tornado occurred on August 21, 2011, at 4.03 pm (Miller et al., 2017). This day was on a Sunday, and the usually crowded market had just been emptied. Lake Huron experienced the formation of a twister that adhered to a direct route across the town square, City Hall, and beyond that.

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Goderich is a small town that is occupied by 7500 residents, with the land area being 7.91 square kilometers (Miller et al., 2018). The downtown area of this place contains banking institutions, art galleries, specialty stores and a historic hotel. This town is located near Lake Huron, the reason why weather disturbances occur often (Silver & Andrey, 2014). On August 21 2011, Goderich experienced a period of unsettled weather conditions, and a possibility of a tornado was stated. About an hour later, a supercell thunderstorm moved across the lake. At 1548 EDT of the same day, a warning about a tornado occurring in Goderich and other surrounding areas was given by Canada Environment. Ten minutes after the warning had been issued, the storm came ashore and hit Goderich directly (Silver & Andrey, 2014). The storm went in a southeasterly direction, travelling for 20 km, causing a damage path estimated to be between 200m and 1.5 km.

The Goderich tornado was the strongest to have hit Ontario over a long time and led to extensive destruction. The downtown core recorded the most damages, with some of the activities being forced to come to a standstill. According to Silver and Andrey (2014), one person died, and 39 were injured as a result of this tornado. Out of the 39, five of them required urgent medical attention. After assessing the damage that had occurred, it was reported that the tornado was an F3, with the wind speeds going up to 280 km per hour (Silver & Andrey, 2014).

Three thousand three hundred customers had to survive without natural gas for some days after the service was cut off due to the damage caused by the tornado. Numerous buildings were damaged, both residential and commercial ones. The Goderich courthouse was among those that were damaged. Some of the buildings were beyond repair and had to be demolished (Silver & Andrey, 2014). This tornado was estimated to have caused damages amounting to 75 million Canadian dollars as of September 21, 2011.

2013 Alberta Floods

Heavy precipitation hit southern Alberta and the surrounding regions between 19-21 June 2013, leading to a severe flood that left behind a huge trail of damages (Teufel, Diro, Whan, Milrad, Jeong, Ganji, Winger, Gyakum, Elia, Zwiers, Sushama, 2016). The Bow and Elbow Rivers are usually seen as blessings but are catastrophic at times. The flood that occurred in June 2013 was termed as the largest in the province and lasted for about three days. According to Nenshi (2014), the trouble in Alberta started overhead before the rains that led to the floods began. The pacific experienced a giant low-pressure system that got stuck in a stream jet. As the system moved over the hills, it took in moisture from the US and Saskatchewan. On June 19, 2013, it started to rain around suppertime. For eight to fifteen hours, southwest Alberta experienced a heavy downpour (Nenshi, 2014). In the following 24 hours, the rainfall had surpassed a 150 millimeters level and had spread to almost the whole of the area. It was not a single area that was affected by this disaster because the entire Bow River basin experienced huge amounts of rainfall. What worsened the situation was the fact that some of the moisture fell in the form of snow, which melted and added to the volume of water going to the rivers and streams (Nenshi, 2014). The rain was so furious such that earth was unable to absorb it, causing the residents to pack their belongings and move to higher grounds. The residents of Exshaw and Canmore were the first to flee for safety. On June 20, Cougar Creek was overflowing, and more people had to move to higher grounds.

Different hydrological and meteorological factors were linked to these floods. According to Tuefel et al. (2016), orographic ascent and evapotranspiration were major contributors to the Alberta 2013 floods. Increases in greenhouse gases resulting from human activities were also attributed to evapotranspiration that surpassed the pre-industrial levels. The soils that were frozen and covered with snow also contributed to the floods by generating more water that filled the streams (Tuefel et al., 2016). This means that various factors worked together to cause one of the worst floods to hit Alberta.

As stated earlier, the 2013 Alberta floods resulted in huge losses that impacted on adults, youths, children, and the economy. People lost their homes and possessions during this disaster. Schools and other important institutions were also swept away by the raging waters. Family finances were also impacted on because some of the people lost their businesses, and some had to spend their savings to deal with the effects of the disasters on their children (Fulton & Drolet, 2018). About 100,000 Albertans were forced to leave their homes, and cars were also damaged during the disaster. The infrastructure losses resulting from the Alberta 2013 floods was unbelievable as 1,000 km of roads were destroyed, and bridges and culverts were swept away.

Five people were confirmed dead in Alberta during the floods. Rail transport was disrupted, and pipelines were damaged, leading to spillage. The floods caused extensive damage such that 32 local states of emergency were declared. The total damages that resulted from these floods were estimated to be 6 billion Canadian dollars (Rosenzweig, Solecki, Romero-Lankao , Mehrotra, Dhakal, Ibrahim, 2018). It was estimated that Canada’s GDP reduced by 2 billion, and Alberta’s growth reduced by 5 percent as a result of this disaster.

Compare and Contrast

Looking at Goderich tornado and 2013 Alberta floods shows that these two disasters have several similarities. Both disasters occurred in areas that were near rivers and water sources, and their occurrence was related to water. Both disasters led to deaths and destruction of property worth billions of Canadian dollars, especially buildings. Different services were disrupted by both disasters such as rail transport in Alberta and the supply of natural gas in Goderich (Silver & Andrey, 2014). This confirms that despite the disasters being different and occurring in separate areas at different times, some of their aspects were related.

Differences are also evident when analyzing the two disasters. The damages that resulted from the 2013 Alberta floods were more than those that were recorded during the Goderich tornado. The Alberta floods resulted in damages amounting to 6 billion Canadian dollars while the Goderich tornado’s losses amounted to 75 million Canadian dollars (Rosenzweig et al., 2018). The tornado lasted for one day while the floods lasted for three days between 19-21 June 2013. The damages resulting from the floods were huge such that states of emergencies had to be declared, something that did not happen during the Goderich tornado (Rosenzweig et al., 2018).

More people were killed during the floods than during the tornado. Five people died during the floods as compared to one person who was killed by the tornado (Silver & Andrey, 2014). The Alberta floods led to huge damage to infrastructure, such as roads and bridges. Such damages were not reported during the tornado. The environment was affected during the floods when the pipelines were damaged, an aspect that did not occur during the tornado. Canada’s economy was greatly affected by the Alberta floods, which resulted in a reduction of GDP by 2 billion (Nenshi, 2014). The extent to which the economy was affected by the Goderich tornado was not stated.


Canada has experienced numerous disasters in the past that have resulted in huge losses, including lives. Goderich tornado and the 2013 Alberta floods are some of the worst natural disasters to be recorded in Canada and had numerous impacts. People died, others were injured, and others were displaced. These disasters led to huge losses that affected Canadian’s economy negatively. The damages caused by the two disasters shows how Canada experiences major losses when natural disasters strike and shows the need to direct more efforts towards the prevention of such disasters before they occur. Therefore, the best way to avoid such hazards is to come up with the best prevention measures. These measures include warning the areas at risk on time, focusing on reducing the effects of climate change, and ensuring that homes and properties are insured to minimize the losses that the government has to shoulder when the disasters strike. It is possible that Canada can be transformed into a disaster-free country if the appropriate measures are utilized, and the country is well prepared and equipped for disasters.


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  2. Fulton, A., & Drolet, J. (2018). Responding to Disaster-Related Loss and Grief: Recovering from the 2013 Flood in Southern Alberta, Canada. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 23(2), 140– 158. doi: 10.1080/15325024.2018.1423873
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  7. Teufel, B., Diro, G., Whan, K., Milrad, S., Jeong, D., Ganji, A., … Sushama, L. (2016). Investigation of the 2013 Alberta flood from weather and climate perspectives. Climate Dynamics, 48(9-10), 2881–2899. doi: 10.1007/s00382-016-3239-8

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Natural Disasters in Canada. (2022, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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