Andrea Stockton, staff writer
June 24, 2011 — Severe thunderstorms have been barreling through southern Ontario this week, bringing heavy rain and damaging winds to the region.
Thunderstorms, severe at times, started to roll across the southern part of the province Tuesday night.
The storms were heaviest in southwestern Ontario, where strong winds caused extensive damage to the Leamington marina and knocked out power for 3,000 customers.
Environment Canada visited the Kingsville and Leamington areas on Wednesday for a damage assessment. Based on the damage witnessed, officials say the event was likely caused by powerful winds with peak gusts at 110 km/h and not a tornado.
“It was really windy and I could hear the rain coming and it was just a roar,” says Leamington resident Fred Takaki. “And then we heard this tree crack. It took about four seconds for it to twist and crack and then, on the ground.”
South of the border, the same storms caused chaos in the Chicago area. Commuter trains were halted for hours and O'Hare International Airport cancelled more than 300 flights.
The first wave of storms occurred along a warm front, but the instability continued on Wednesday and Thursday as a cold front slid through.
“A line of thunderstorms rolled through southwestern Ontario during the evening hours on Wednesday,” says Rob Davis, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. “There were numerous reports of strong winds and very heavy downpours.”
There were also several reports of waterspouts throughout the night. “The potential was definitely there as a couple of cells showed rotation,” notes Davis.
The Weather Network's Storm Hunter, Mark Robinson was in the thick of the storms on Wednesday and says conditions got severe in Grand Bend, where over 50 mm of rain fell in only one hour.
“Right off the beach in Grand Bend, what we saw was some very fast rotating clouds, little difficult to say what it was, but it definitely turned into a very large shelf cloud and kicked up some very high winds, heavy rain and some small hail behind it.”
Severe thunderstorms fired up once again on Thursday in eastern Ontario and southern Quebec. Calls to The Weather Network Stormline reported marble sized hail in Constance Bay, just west of Ottawa. Environment Canada has also confirmed that an F0 tornado touched down between Kanata and Aylmer. Peter Kimbell with Environment Canada travelled to the area Friday morning.
“Clearly photographic evidence shows a probable tornado, but we just don't see any damage from it,” says Kembell.
A widespread thunderstorm risk continues through Friday, with the greatest threats being heavy downpours and strong winds. Conditions will remain unsettled until the low begins to push eastward on Saturday.
With files from Alexandra Pope and Lyndsay Morrison