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The Globe and Mail

Chilly, wet spring wasn't the cruellest on record - but it sure felt that way

A Quebec man sloshes through the flooded streets of St-Jean on May 27, 2011.

Ruan Remiorz/The Canadian Press/Ruan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

From Fredericton to Victoria, it's been one soggy spring.

And amid record-breaking floods in Quebec and Manitoba, Canadians elsewhere would be forgiven for thinking they're living in a coast-to-coast deluge of biblical proportions.But downpours can deceive.

While regions across the country got more rain than normal, most came nowhere near historic highs.

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The dreariness, however, was not entirely in your head: Even though rainfall and temperature weren't as bad as they felt, the sheer number of rainy days in many parts of Canada this spring, and the combination of wetter-than-normal weather with colder-than-normal temperatures, added to the sense of going through an ersatz spring undera grey comic-book cloud.

For a real record-breaker, look to the Montreal-St-Hubert area, where 161 millimetres of May rain washed out a 155.8-millimetre record set in 1933. Hamilton, too, has been especially damp: The Hammer was on the receiving end of 166 millimetres of rain, breaking a record set in 2004.

On the wet west coast of B.C.'s Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, temperatures have tied with record low averages for April and May (9.1 degrees in Vancouver - the lowest it's been since 1955; and slightly above the 1955 low of 8.5 degrees in Victoria).

But combine that with rainfall that's twice the average, and "it's the total-misery package," Environment Canada's David Phillips said.

"At no other time has it been that cold and also wet."

The prairies have done all right, rain-wise: While Estevan, Sask., got more than twice its average May rainfall, it's nowhere near record-breaking; Calgary's about average; and Winnipeg's May was actually - wait for it - dryer than normal. The precipitation behind this year's once-in-300-years flooding of the Assiniboine River happened months ago.

Toronto got double its normal rainfall - 141 millimetres in May, compared to 72.5 millimetres - but well below the record of 208.6 millimetres, set in 1942.

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Hogtown residents feeling particularly rained in can feel justified knowing that while it rained more in 2003, there were far fewer consecutive drippy days. In the final fortnight of May, it rained 17 out of 18 days.

"It's the duration" that gets people down, Mr. Phillips said. "It's like the water-torture test."

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