Frequency of Dramatic Storms Expected to Rise This Summer

Photo Karen Graham.
Wires down on Carmel Line.

It’s not the vocabulary lesson we were seeking, but now most have learned the word “derecho”, which describes the weather phenomenon that occurred across the area on Saturday afternoon.  With a wind speed recorded at a tornado- like pace, this weather event affects a broad area, delivering a widespread straight-line wind storm associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms that can cause hurricanic or tornadic-force winds.  According to Environment Canada, the winds on Saturday reached 132 km/h in some areas, and formed one of the most destructive and deadly wind events in our nation’s history.

The event was swift and brutal, but fortunately was preceded by the issue of an emergency alert of a “life-threatening” storm by Environment Canada.  It did, in fact, claim four lives in the greater Peterborough area, all of whom were killed by falling trees.

Photo Karen Graham.
Tree uprooted, narrowly missing the house.

Travelling along local roads the following day, the damage to trees, utility poles and homes seemed almost random: large trees snapped or uprooted completely, leaning on hydro wires, buildings and other vegetation, while others held their ground.  Hydro crews were helped by residents who took the initiative to clear roads of toppled trees where it was safe to do so, to allow traffic to flow and expedite access to repair damaged infrastructure.

The Millbrook was among the first areas in the regions to have power restored, which occurred around 5pm on Sunday.  Many residents did not appreciate how fortunately we were.  On Wednesday morning, there were still more than 50 reported areas without power in the city of Peterborough, while many rural settings including Mount Pleasant, Cavan, Bethany, Fraserville and Bailieboro continued to wait for the lights to go on.  A week after the storm, more than 60,000 customers in Ontario and Quebec were still waiting.

Damage to the Cavan Monaghan Community Centre building resulted in pieces of steel fascia dangling from the rooftop and forced the early voting activity in the facility to shut down on Saturday.  After swift repairs, voting recommenced the following day, but while the lights were on, there was no internet connection, forcing scrutineers to sift through large binders of voter lists to record the participants.  Fortunately voter traffic was light.  By 2pm, only nine voters had cast their ballot in this location.

The mounting evidence of the impact of climate change on weather patterns suggests that dramatic weather events like this one will be more frequent.  Accuweather, a US media company that provides commercial weather forecasting services worldwide, has just released its summer forecast which describes the weather trends the experts are anticipating for the upcoming season.

According to their Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, this summer will see a continuation of a La Nina trend, which has been affecting weather patterns across North America since the fall by influencing the direction and position of the flow of the jet stream across the continent.

In BC, where all-time high temperatures were recorded last summer followed by a ferocious wildfire season La Nina is expected to direct more moisture over most of the province this summer, which should reduce wildfire activity this year.  The prairies continue to experience drought conditions, which does not bode well for western farmers.

Closer to home, forecasters predict wet and stormy weather will be common across central and southern Ontario and neighbouring parts of Quebec.  Anderson predicts a great deal of severe thunderstorm activity along the Windsor-Toronto-Ottawa corridor this summer, which will alleviate the risk of drought but increase the humidity, resulting in sticky nights.

Photo Karen Graham.
These hydro works from Niagara Peninsula Energy were taking a lunch break in town on Thursday. Equipped with eight trucks, they began on Saturday afternoon in Burlington and continued to travel east, restoring power along the way. Reinforcements even travelled from the US to help. The damage was so extensive that, a week after the storm, 60,000 customers in Ontario and Quebec were still with power. Thank you, hydro workers!

The Maritimes are expected to receive normal levels of rainfall this summer, with the exception of Newfoundland, which could be drier than usual.  Trends indicate the potential for a high volume of tropical systems reaching Atlantic Canada in late summer and early fall.

Of course, these forecasts are generalized predictions based on past atmospheric trends, and observers of daily weather forecasts recognize that the longer the forecast horizon, the less reliable the prediction.  That being said, it might be wise to get in line for that portable generator, air conditioner or fan to be ready for the weather to come.  KG


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