Tornadoes are common in southern Ontario during the spring and summer months. But two years ago, the powerful storms began to pop up in an unprecedented number.
Imagine 10 million people, one-third of Canada's population, under a tornado watch or warning on the same day. That's exactly what happened on August 20, 2009, when a line of severe thunderstorms swept across southern Ontario. 19 tornadoes touched down, making it the biggest one day tornado outbreak in Canadian history.
Two F2 tornadoes struck the city of Vaughan, where a state of emergency was declared.
“It only took 15 seconds, it went right between our houses, and next thing you know the roof is off and everything is leaking inside the house,” said Vaughan resident John Fiore.
Others say there was no chance for rebuilding what was already there. Some families were even left homeless.
Another F2 tornado that touched down in Durham turned deadly and tragically, an 11-year-old boy lost his life. The twister travelled for almost 50 km, taking out homes and buildings in its path.
As each year passes, residents in the affected areas can't help but wonder if a similar outbreak will occur. According to Chris Scott, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, it is a possibility.
“Severe weather doesn’t have a ‘memory’ of what happened in previous years, so the odds of a tornado hitting Vaughan around this time of year are the same as before August 20th, 2009,” he says. “Think of a casino slot machine. After every play, the machine resets, and the odds of getting a certain result are exactly the same as on the previous play.”
Four of the tornadoes that hit southern Ontario in 2009 were F2 in strength, but what does that mean exactly?
“That's the Fujita Scale that's used in Canada and an F2 can have wind speeds of up to 250 km/h,” says The Weather Network's Chris St. Clair.
“Imagine driving down the highway in your car at 100 km/h and putting your hand out the window, that's what a 100 km/h wind feels like,” explains St. Clair. “At over 250 km/h you start to get a sense of the power that these storms, tornadoes can hold.”
TORNADO WARNING SIGNS
WHAT TO DO DURING A TORNADO