Friday, November 09, 2007

Rare thundersnow hits Winnipeg Thursday night

A rare occurrence of "thundersnow" occurred in Winnipeg last night as a weather system tracked across Southern MB, bringing the season's first general snowfall mainly north and east of Winnipeg. Around 11:45 pm a band of wet snow was moving through Winnipeg when a sudden flash of lightning generated a very loud thunderclap that some people mistook for an explosion. I was awoken by the thunder myself, and it was as loud as any close by summertime lightning strike, yet it was +1 and snowing at the time. I didn't see the flash, but many people reported one. Data from the lightning detector network indicates that the strike hit somewhere near the Eldridge/Oakdale area of Charleswood and generated 104,000 amps of electricity, which is a very powerful stroke. (normal lightning strikes generate about 20-40,000 amps) Note that this was the only strike recorded last night.. almost like the cloud built up all this static electricity, then released it all at once right over Charleswood! By the way, thunder is very rare around these parts during the cold season, with only 4 official occurrences between November and March in the last 50 years at Winnipeg Airport.


  1. I'm glad to hear now that there is official evidence from the lightning detector network that it was lightning. I live in River Heights and was awoken by the flash and clap (and my windows shook). When I arrived to work in Charleswood on Friday, all my students and fellow staff were talking about it (including one from the Maples). At that moment, I thought for sure that it must have been a meteor then, not lightning. Meteor can also create tremendous flashes and sonic booms. In our classroom we looked up Youtube footage of meteorites and the sound/boom and flash generated by some caught on tape are very much like what we experienced Thursday night. Ah well, if there is scientific evidence of a lightning strike, I guess I'll have to tell my students that our theory (my theory) was incorrect!

  2. You're not the only one who thought it was a meteor.. some of my coworkers thought the same thing. Just as well it wasn't.. that's getting a little too close for a meteor strike! :)

  3. Not sure where you work, or if weather observation is just a hobby. Anyways, I had emailed Environment Canada about whether it could have been a meteor. I received an response that I thought was rather interesting.

    "Thank you for sending your message to Environment Canada. We have received a few messages from people asking if it was indeed a clap of thunder that caused the booming noise heard over Winnipeg in the evening of November 9. Your message raises a point that was not brought up before. All I can say is that the weather observer at the airport reported it as thunder."

    The message goes on to tell me how to log a fireball submission form, etc. Maybe I'm reading too much into the response, but it seemed to leave the possibility open... I wish I could see the weather radar from that date/time. Meteors have been known to show up on radar. Ah well, I should just admit that I am probably a conspiracy theorist at heart. :)

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