A series of violent storms swept across Canada’s most populated corridor on Saturday, killing at least five people and cutting off power to nearly a million people.
Three out of five deaths in Ontario were caused by falling trees, according to the Toronto Star. He also reported that a woman died when her boat capsized in the Ottawa River. Details about an additional fatality in Ottawa had not yet been released, the Star wrote.
My thoughts go to both their families and friends and I express my condolences on behalf of all the Ontarians, Ottawa Prime Minister Doug Ford posted on Twitter on Saturday night.
Some of the deaths underscore a common theme in strong wind events: Those who engage in outdoor activities are particularly vulnerable to violent gusts of wind. The U.S. Hurricane Forecast Center website says those involved in outdoor activities are particularly vulnerable, especially campers or climbers in forest areas, who are vulnerable to being injured or killed by falling trees.
Two dead and 44 injured in unusual tornado in northern Michigan
Extensive damage to trees and energy infrastructure also dealt a severe blow to the electricity distribution in the urban corridor. As of Saturday evening, the power outage aggregator PowerOutage.com listed about 925,000 outages in Quebec and Ontario, a massive event for a country with just over 38 million citizens. Sunday morning, PowerOutage.com still reported about 700,000 consumers without electricity.
Emergency crews responded to more than 500 calls Saturday for downed power lines, fires, downed trees and damaged buildings. CTV Ottawa reported.
The storm complex is almost certainly referred to as a derecho, or a storm complex that produces extremely strong winds over a wide area. The effects of violent derechos winds are often comparable to those of hurricanes. Derecho are quite common in the lower 48 states, but are less common north of the border and rarely touch such densely populated corridors.
Derechos often strike along the northern periphery of heat domes, where conditions are ripe for strong storms. Indeed, the very unusual heat of the early season rose in northeastern North America on Saturday, with numerous cities in the eastern United States setting records.
The combination of this heat with moisture drawn north from the Gulf of Mexico triggered extreme atmospheric instability, or fuel for storms, in eastern Canada. Storms erupted as this hot and humid air was confronted by a strong cold front marching eastward. This was the same cold front that caused temperatures in Denver to drop by more than 50 degrees in 24 hours and helped the deadly tornado appear in Gaylord, Mich.
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Historically, remote southeastern Canada sees approximately one derecho event every four years, according to the Storm Prediction Center. But Saturday’s event was extremely northeast and struck at an unusual time of year; many Canadian derecho have hit in July or August.
Saturday’s unusual derecho characteristics may have been representative of a climate change-related trend in the location of such harmful storm events. According to the website of the Storm Prediction CenterMaximum frequency corridors derecho are likely to shift toward the pole over time as warm high-pressure domes expand northward under global warming.
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