Ottawa’s Legendary Downpours

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Canada, we made it. It’s June and snow season is over for now—at least in Southern Ontario.

The news must have been broadcast worldwide—“Warmer weather in Canada! Come now, don’t freeze later!”—because I keep on bumping into foreign tourists on their Canada holidays. As for locals, early summer translates into “let’s strap a canoe to the roof of the SUV just in case we feel like going to the cottage after work” and “how about we hold a… ahem, team meeting at the nearest patio?”

But we’re not completely weather drama free.

Remember when, a few weeks ago, I explained you probably didn’t want to get caught in an ice storm? Well, you probably don’t want to get caught in the summer version of these ice storms either—Ottawa’s legendary downpours.

Everything is always bigger in North America—cars, houses, serving sizes and yes, weather phenomena. Looking for extreme weather? Come over!

I was first introduced to the Ottawa-style “chance of thunderstorms” in June 2003. I already had the pleasure to be in Ottawa in the fall—lovely Indian Summer, weather surprisingly warmer than in France—I had just survived my first Canadian winter. “What could possibly go wrong with summer?” I thought, happy to see the weather getting hot and humid.

That day, Feng was already at work downtown Ottawa and I had just finished my early morning shift as a receptionist in an inconveniently located industrial area. I had taken the bus back home and I was getting ready to go work at my second job downtown when the phone rang.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Not much. Just got home, making a tuna sandwich.”

“You may want to wait a bit before heading out,” Feng advised. “It’s raining here and it’s coming your way.”

I laughed. “Oh, I’ll be fine, no worries.”

Feng grew up in Northern China and Manitoba. He kicks my ass at snowball fights but he hates non-frozen water. I grew up in Brittany where rainy days are just a fact of life. Most of us don’t even bother with an umbrella—we get wet, c’est la vie.

I hung up, wrapped my sandwich and locked the door behind me. It was a ten-minute walk to the #14 bus stop—straight to the Tim Hortons and then left along the Experimental Farm. I strolled down the street, then hurried because indeed, I could feel a few raindrops—I don’t mind rain but I don’t enjoy it. I ended up running like hell because the few drops of water had turned into Niagara Falls pouring over my head. I made it to the Tim Hortons completely soaked and I called Feng from the payphone (yes, in 2003 you could make a local call with a quarter).

“I’ll be late, it’s raining!”

Feng laughed. “Did you get wet? I told you to wait!”

“I’m soaked and that’s not rain, that’s buckets of water being dumped on innocent people like me!”

I still occasionally misread the clouds. On Monday, I got caught in a downpour. By the time I reached Little Italy, the closest street where I could find shelter, I was soaked. And then, just when I thought I couldn’t get any wetter, Preston Street, where I was standing, got flooded.

Fun walk back home, I’m telling you.

At least, flowers and leaves looked lovely after the rain.

Stormy sky over the Experimental Farm, Ottawa, June 4

Crossing the Experimental Farm, Ottawa, June 4

Stormy sky over the Experimental Farm, Ottawa, June 4

Preston Street, Little Italy, flooded after a downpour

Preston Street, Little Italy, flooded after a downpour

Preston Street, Little Italy, flooded after a downpour

Preston Street, Little Italy, flooded after a downpour

Preston Street, Little Italy, flooded after a downpour

Preston Street, Little Italy, flooded after a downpour

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

A few hours after the storm, Ottawa, June 4

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

4 Comments

    • C’est littéralement une ferme dans laquelle le gouvernement fédéral se livre à des expériences. J’ai jamais vu les X-Men ou de vaches mutantes, mais je crois qu’on y fait des expérience sur les cultures 😉 Cette ferme est immense, genre Central Park à NYC, et elle est relatievemnt centrale. J’habite près de l’un de ses bords.

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