As thunderstorms rolled across southern Ontario on August 20th, 2009, they brought tornado warnings and watches for most of the region. The stormy conditions finally culminated in 19 tornadoes, two of which touched down in Vaughan and another which claimed the life of an 11-year-old boy in Durham.
The city of Vaughan was one of the worst-affected areas and declared a state of emergency later that day. Now, on the eve of the tragic event’s first anniversary, a simple question is being asked: Could another twister sweep through a place like Vaughan, which has been hit before? According to The Weather Network Meteorologist Chris Scott, 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 now 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.”
Last year, homes were severely damaged and some had their roofs ripped off. Power lines were downed, cars got overturned and trees were uprooted. However, Scott says the chance of a tornado hitting a specific house in Vaughan is extremely low, as it is for any house in southern Ontario.
He explains: “Within the GTA, areas on the north and west side (like York, northern Durham and northern Peel Regions) are at a greater risk for tornadoes because lake-breeze fronts moving inland from Lake Ontario tend to trigger thunderstorms more often in these areas and provide a source of spin for the storms. However, a tornado could occur in any location, even downtown Toronto.”
The powerful storm system that led to the tornadoes in 2009 was a result of a cold front coming in contact with warm, humid air. This combination led to the development of thunderstorms that can often result in tornadoes.
This summer, Ontario has been no stranger to tornado warnings and watches as well. Severe hot and humid conditions have often fired up stormy weather. In July alone, nine tornadoes were confirmed in Ontario. This month, funnel clouds were spotted in Ontario and Quebec.
“Tornadoes are one of the smallest of all weather systems, but also the most powerful,” adds Scott. “While it is unlikely that a given person will ever experience a tornado, history tells us that we need to respect and prepare for the possibility because of the incredible localized damage a tornado can cause.”
Environment Canada advises residents to take shelter in the basement immediately if they spot a funnel cloud -- a rotating column of wind that turns into a tornado once it touches the ground.
For a look back at last year’s event, tune in on Friday, August 20 to watch Tornado Outbreak: The Aftermath. This special show will air on The Weather Network on August 20 at the top of every hour beginning at 8 a.m. nationally, and as of 9 a.m. in the Greater Toronto Area.
If you miss it, then watch the show online, right here, on Saturday. You'll have another chance to catch the show on TV when it replays on Sunday August 22 on The Weather Network at the top of every hour as of 6 a.m.