Canada

Canada’s 1st tornado of the year touched down in Amherstburg, Ont., researchers say

Researchers say a spring storm in Amhertsburg, Ont., brought the country’s first tornado of 2024. 

After visiting a site to the site south of Windsor to observe the damage, researchers from Western University’s Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) say they have determined an EF-1 tornado landed in Malden Centre on March 16. 

The twister is tied with a 2016 tornado in Clifford as the earliest ever recorded in Ontario. 

“We knew that there had been potential for tornadoes and we had received reports already about significant hail that had occurred on that day,” said Connell Miller, an engineering researcher for NTP. 

“When taking a closer look… we[saw] that there had been a small little rotation signature on the radar … It wasn’t on the ground for for very long.

Researchers with the Northern Tornadoes Project have now said a small tornado swept through a swatch of Amherstburg on March 16, 2024, ripping the roof off a mobile home. (Northern Tornadoes Project)

Miller said it was reported to Northern Tornadoes Project through their online reporting tool, with photos. They then used Detroit-based radar images to confirm rotation took place. The final step was a visit to Amherstburg on Saturday. 

The tornado reached speeds of about 150 km/h, which was enough to pull the roof off a small mobile home and secure the tornado an EF-1 rating. Hail was reported at the time. 

While tornadoes are difficult to predict, Miller says the strongest indicator comes with warm weather. 

“One of the things that you need to create a tornado is atmospheric instability and typically the best way to get atmospheric instability is through heat,” he said. 

A man in a black windbreaker in front of a tree.
Connell Miller is an engineering researcher for the Northern Tornadoes Project. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

“There was a stretch of time in March where there was an unusual bit of heat … that created enough atmospheric instability that led to it being possible to have a tornado in that moment.”

That’s why, he said, southwestern Ontario’s typical tornado season usually runs from June to early September. The early tornado is “very unusual.”

But, he says, an early tornado isn’t an indicator of the season to come. 

“Tornadoes are so variable that an early tornado like this isn’t an indication of anything that’s to come for the summer,” he said. “The only thing that’s an indication of is that tornado season got off to a very early start.”

Residents can report severe wind damage and suspected tornadoes either on social media, by tagging the Northern Tornadoes Project, or by using their online tool at uwo.ca/ntp. Photos are always appreciated, Miller added. 

“We really do rely on citizen scientists … because Canada is so big. It’s really easy for tornadoes like the one that we saw in March here to get missed … we likely wouldn’t have figured out if someone hadn’t reported a tornado directly to us. 

“So we really do rely on and appreciate these reports.”

Start preparing now for summer heat, storms: Environment Canada

Environment Canada is forecasting a warmer-than-normal summer for Windsor-Essex.

“It’s hard to say at this point how much warmer than normal, and certainly we can expect sometimes the temperatures will be a little below seasonal,” said meteorologist Trudy Kidd. 

“But overall, when the summer said and done, we’re expecting the temperatures to have been warmer than normal.”

There’s no clear indication yet of what this summer’s precipitation outlook is, nor what storms the summer could bring in the way of summer storms. 

But Kidd says there are things you can do to prepare. 

“Now is a great time to start thinking about your emergency plans because severe weather can bring power outages and you want to be prepared for all that,” she said. 

“Now is a great time to start looking up all the resources that you’ll need for 72-hour emergency preparedness kit.”

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