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Spike in tornadoes reported across Ontario

Jennifer O’Brien, QMI Agency

A large tree lies across a roadway just north of the town of Paris, Ont., in this file photo. (BRIAN THOMPSON/QMI Agency Files)

A large tree lies across a roadway just north of the town of Paris, Ont., in this file photo. (BRIAN THOMPSON/QMI Agency Files)

LONDON, Ont. ─ Talk about talking up a storm.

A spike in tornadoes reported across Ontario this year ─ 19 as the season winds down, compared with the yearly average of 12 ─ could say as much about how much we love to talk about weather as it does about the weather itself.

"It could have been a more active year for thunderstorm activities, but the other reason (for the increase) is . . . social media in general," said Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson. "There could be trends in there, but it is also that we are living in 2014, not 1984.

"(Storms) are a huge topic on social media. Canadians have always been fascinated by the weather and by talking about it, and now in 2014, we see a number of ways to talk about it -- we see dialogues on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube is filled with severe storm videos."

As a result, he said, meteorologists can investigate reports of tornadoes that might have slipped under the radar years ago.

Many of the 19 storms reported across Ontario this season were considered "at the low end of the damage scale," said Coulson. "We may not have known about them in the ’80s or ’90s."

Years ago, such storms might have made the weekly paper if a farmer lost a group of trees ─ or maybe not, he said.

Now it gets talked about online.

Environment Canada now has a summer student assigned to comb through the myriad of reports coming from various sources, Coulson said.

The agency also has a small army of stormspotting volunteers, trained to recognize signs of severe weather such as tornadoes and expected to contact Environment Canada with relevant information. In recent years, the volunteer army has grown and even has its own Twitter hashtags (#CANWARN #ONSTORM).

jennifer.obrien@sunmedia.ca

2014 tornado touchdowns in Ontario (EF0 is the lowest strength, ER5 the highest):

  • May 13 - Mildmay - EF1
  • May 13 - southeast of Listowel - EF0
  • June 17 - Angus (west of Barrie) - EF2
  • June 17 - Stroud (north of Toronto) - EF1
  • June 24 - East of Tottenham (northest of Orangeville) - EF1
  • June 24 - Laurel Station (northwest of Orangeville) - EF1
  • June 30 - Bear Lake (northwest of Huntsville) - EF0
  • July 7 - Norwich - EF0
  • July 15 - Eastern Lake Nipissing - EF0
  • July 15 - North Bay - EF0
  • July 27 - Millbank (northwest of Kitchener) - EF0
  • July 27 - South of Grand Bend - EF1
  • Aug. 5 - Grassy Narrows (north of Kenora) - EF0
  • Aug. 19 - Windsor - EF0
  • Aug. 19 - Near Harrow (south of Windsor) - EF0
  • Aug. 20 - Near Erin (north of Brampton)- EF0
  • Sept. 5 - Udney (east of Orillia) - EF1
  • Sept. 5 - Christian Island (southeast Georgian Bay) - EF0
  • Oct. 6 - Sheffield (southeast of Cambridge) - EF1

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