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Rare winter thunderstorms

Staff writers
March 2, 2012 — Parts of Ontario have seen a risk of thunderstorms this week and deadly storms have been rolling through the U.S. What's causing these rare winter thunderstorms?

Flashes of lightning reported in southern Ontario Wednesday night
Flashes of lightning reported in southern Ontario Wednesday night

"It's consistent with the mild weather we've experienced so far this winter," says Gina Ressler, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

"Usually the mild and unstable conditions stay south of the border at this time of year, but with the position of the jet stream, the milder air is pushing north into southern Ontario."

Thunderstorms moved into the Windsor area Wednesday night and continued to move through Sarnia and London.

"There was even a cell that came through Oakville, Mississauga and into Toronto before it eventually fizzled out around midnight," says Ressler.

There is a risk for more isolated thunderstorms in southern Ontario on Friday.

"Much like Wednesday, these storms will be non-severe in nature," notes Ressler. "The storms are sparked by elevated instability, which means there is no risk for any tornadic activity."

U.S. storm damage
U.S. storm damage

Unlike in the U.S. Midwest, where the tornado threat remains high Friday.

Deadly storms hit the region earlier this week and one tornado was even rated as an EF-4.

Mike Bettes with The Weather Channel says although tornadoes in February and March aren't completely out of the question, this is definitely an early start to the season.

"We used to think of it as a May, April, June type of event, but now we're seeing a different pattern change," says Bettes.

"Temperatures are warmer, humidities are higher, you can actually tap into that Gulf moisture, which often times you can't in February."

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