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Severe thunderstorms hammer Ontario

Staff writers

March 16, 2012 — Thunderstorms that fired up in southern Ontario early Thursday had emergency crews on high alert. In the evening hours, storm cells were rolling across the province again. One cell prompted a tornado watch for the Windsor area.

Heavy rain causes flooding in Peterborough
Heavy rain causes flooding in Peterborough

It was a day far more typical of summer weather than winter. 

A combination of record warm temperatures and clashing thunderstorms hit Ontario Thursday. At one point in the evening, Environment Canada issued a tornado watch for the Windsor area.

"We had some dangerous storm cells brewing on the Michigan side of the border," says Dayna Vettese, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "Because storms had passed through Ontario earlier in the day, those severe cells couldn't hold themselves together once they got into the more stable air mass in the province."

The storms in Michigan produced at least one damaging tornado.

Thunderstorms also rumbled across the Ottawa Valley Thursday night. Frequent lightning and hail was reported around Orleans and Gatineau.

Heavy rains wreaked havoc in Peterborough through the overnight hours. Several roads were inundated and city crews worked through the night in an effort to get things under control.

Storm damage at a bus stop in Waterloo, ON
Storm damage at a bus stop in Waterloo, ON

In the early morning hours of Thursday, storms were firing up in parts of southern Ontario as well. Radar detected a line of thunderstorms extending from Wiarton to Goderich and another line from Algonquin to Bancroft.

Waterloo Regional Police say they received a call just before 8 am about a person that was struck by lightning near the Toyota plant in Cambridge. The victim was taken to hospital and is expected to recover. Lightning strikes were also blamed for structural damage in the area.

"These are the type of storms that produce intense lightning, heavy rain and decent hail," said Rob Davis, another meteorologist at The Weather Network, Thursday morning. "There's lots of convective activity in the upper atmosphere."

Although it feels like spring has sprung in many parts of the province, thunderstorms at this time of year are pretty rare.

"We often see these kinds of storms in April and even May. Temperatures aren't usually warm enough for thunderstorms to start firing up in the winter months," notes Davis.

"It's consistent with the warm conditions we've been seeing however, and the position of the jet stream is allowing the Gulf air to spread across the region."

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