Ontario's deadliest and costliest tornadoes
Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 5:52 PM - With severe thunderstorm season unfolding across Ontario, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at some the most impactful tornado outbreaks in the province's history.
Southern Ontario, the Prairies, and Quebec tend to attract the most tornadoes during the spring and summer months. Ontario averages 15 tornadoes per season, though most of them are between categories EF0 and EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. These tornadoes are not extremely dangerous and are not as strong as EF3 to EF5 tornadoes, though they can sometimes generate just as much damage. To understand how the Fujita scale works, take a look at the chart below.
With stormy weather on the horizon for southern Ontario, let's take a look at past severe storms. Here are some of Ontario's most devastating and most costly tornadoes:
June 17th, 1946 – EF4
Tornado over Windsor, 1946. Credit: Harry G. Garland, Wikimedia
This category EF4 tornado ripped through the Windsor-Tesumseh area, destroying nearly everything in its path. Some families lost everything they had. Damages were estimated to be around $9 million. The tornado killed 17 people and remains the third deadliest tornado in Canadian history. (The most deadly was the Regina Cyclone of 1912, an EF4 tornado that injured more than 300 people, killed 28, and damages cost approximately $4.5 million.) April 17th, 1967 – EF3 Four tornadoes hit southwestern Ontario, two EF3 and two EF0. The tornadoes travelled from Huron to Perth, and then from St. Jacobs to Guelph, killing one person. Damages cost approximately $8.2 million.
April 17th, 1967 – EF3
Four tornadoes hit southwestern Ontario, two EF3 and two EF0. The tornadoes travelled from Huron to Perth, and then from St. Jacobs to Guelph, killing one person. Damages cost approximately $8.2 million.
August 20th, 1970 – EF3
The Sudbury Star homepage the day after the tornado. The force of the tornado lifted this passenger train from the tracks. Credit: R. Orville Little, flickr
A single EF3 tornado came through the Sudbury communities of Lively and Copper Cliff in the early morning. The Sudbury Airport was not equipped with a radar to detect tornado activity, so residents were not given much warning before the tornado touched down. Tornadoes of this strength are extremely rare so far up north in Ontario. Damages cost approximately $17 million. Nearly 200 people were injured and six were killed, making this Canada’s 8th deadliest tornado.
August 7th, 1979 – EF4
Three tornadoes, two being category EF4, ravaged the areas of Stratford and Woodstock. Nearly 500 houses were destroyed, with damages exceeding $100 million. Two people were killed and 150 were injured.
May 31st, 1985 – EF4
This EF4 tornado that touched down in Barrie was part of a wider outbreak of tornadoes throughout the province. 13 tornadoes in total hit Ontario causing nearly $100 million in damage. Hundreds of residents were left homeless due to damage and 12 people were killed.
August 28th, 1990 – EF3
An EF3 tornado hit near Port Stanley, destroying at least 10 barns and killing several horses. An EF2 hit Kokoma and an EF1 hit Kendal. These tornadoes were associated with the 1990 Plainfield tornado, an EF5 tornado that hit the Chicago, Illinois area.
August 19th, 2005 – EF2
Flood waters washed away a portion of a parking lot near Keele St. and Highway 7 in Vaughan. Credit: Wikimedia
One unconfirmed and three confirmed tornadoes hit southern Ontario through Conestoga Lake, Fergus, and Tavistock. Houses, trees, cars, and power lines were destroyed in the storm. As the storm moved further east, it became heavy rainfall and caused costly flooding in Toronto. Damages cost approximately $500 million, and this was reported as the second largest loss in Canadian history. No casualties were reported.
Spring/Summer 2009 – EF0 to EF2
2009 was a bad year for severely damaging tornadoes in Ontario. The first event occurred on April 25th, when four EF0 tornadoes and one EF1 took southern Ontario by storm, hitting Ottawa, Guelph, and Windsor. No injuries or deaths were reported, but damages destroyed trees, hydro poles, and 18 planes at the Rockcliffe Flying Club.
July 9th saw two tornadoes, an EF1 and an EF2, in northwestern Ontario near Ear Falls. Fisherman’s Cove Resort on Lac Seul was hit and killed three people, who were visiting from Oklahoma. Five other people were reported injured.
The province (and the whole country!) saw its largest single day tornado outbreak on August 20th, when 19 tornadoes tore through southern Ontario. Four of the tornadoes were category EF2, 11 were EF1, and four were EF0. A total cost of the damages was never reported, but Grey County – one of the worst hit areas – reported damages of $30 million. An 11-year-old boy was killed in this tornado outbreak and was the only casualty.
August 21st, 2011 – EF3
An EF3 tornado struck just outside Goderich, originating as a supercell thunderstorm over Lake Huron and creating a waterspout that tore through the town. It injured 40 people and killed one. It was Ontario’s strongest tornado since 1996 (when an EF3 tornado tore through Grey County, injuring nine people).
Since 2011, Ontario has seen several EF0 and EF1 tornadoes and a few EF2 but has not seen anything higher than that. No deaths have been reported due to tornadoes since 2011.
Tornadoes in Canada tend to be much less dangerous than tornadoes in the United States. However, safety precautions should still be taken if your area is under a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado watch.
READ MORE: Safety tips for severe weather
• Look for the signs: dark skies, rotating funnel clouds, hail, thunder.
• If you are indoors, avoid windows and all glass that could shatter.
• If you in a mall, school, grocery store etc., move the the lowest floor of the building.
• If you are stuck outdoors, find low ground and protect your head with your hands or a blanket.
• If you are in a car: park, put on your seat belt, and stay low.