Two unanticipated tornadoes were witnessed in Ontario lately. Earlier this month, at least one tornado touched down in Barrhaven, a suburb located in the southern part of Ottawa. This event caused substantial harm to numerous properties, including the toppling of backyard fences and tree branches. An estimated 125 homes in the area experienced varying degrees of damage.
Tornadoes have been relatively uncommon in Ontario for an extended period of time. Historically, the highest concentration of tornadoes has typically occurred in the Prairies. In recent years, however, scholars have observed a significant shift within this tornado-prone region.
The Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP), founded at Western University, has a crucial mission to enhance the detection of tornadoes throughout Canada. Its goal is to advance the understanding and prediction of severe and extreme weather, mitigate potential harm to individuals and property, and examine the ramifications of climate change. Recent research conducted by NTP scientists reveals a notable eastward displacement of North America's Tornado Alley, the region known for its highest tornado frequency in the central United States and Canada. As a result, Ontario and Quebec may no longer be shielded from the threat of tornadoes.
The precise cause of this unexpected change is still largely unknown. Nonetheless, the implications are noteworthy, as the regions that may now fall under Tornado Alley are unprepared for tornadoes. These areas have a higher population density and increased construction. However, there is a noticeable lack of public awareness regarding effective measures to protect lives, homes, and critical infrastructure during tornado incidents.
These new environmental shifts bring forth unparalleled concerns. Among them is the lack of a proper alert system. Researchers from the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) found that Environment Canada failed to issue warnings for the majority of tornadoes. Only a small fraction of tornadoes received at least a 10-minute lead time, which is a short yet crucial duration for ensuring the safety of individuals.
New Challenges for Property Owners and Managers
To protect your property from tornadoes, it is crucial to take proactive steps that minimize damage and prioritize safety. Strengthening the structure is paramount in this endeavour. Consider reinforcing the roof, doors, windows, and garage doors to enhance their durability during tornado events. Additionally, installing impact-resistant windows and utilizing heavy-duty hinges and latches for doors can further fortify your property.
In addition, it is strongly recommended to incorporate a safe room or storm shelter into your property. In situations where evacuation may be challenging, these designated spaces provide a secure refuge during tornadoes and can protect you from flying debris and high winds.