June 18, 2014 2:50 pm
Updated: September 5, 2014 4:07 pm

By the numbers: Ontario’s deadliest tornadoes


Watch the video above: Environment Canada’s David Phillips who discusses how the Angus tornado formed and why the southern part of Ontario is a hotbed of tornado activity.

TORONTO – Tuesday’s tornado that tore through Angus, tearing the roofs off homes and tossing cars and trucks, is a stark reminder that Ontario has its own tornado alley.

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What makes Ontario so tornado-prone?

READ MORE: A look at tornadoes in Canada

“We’re closer to big tornado alley,” David Phillips, Environment Canada‘s senior climatologist told Global News, referring to the tornado alley in the southern United States.

Our heat and humidity – which often comes from the Gulf of Mexico – coupled with the cooler Great Lakes, can create the unstable conditions necessary to cause severe storms. The cooler, dry air, often in the form of lake breezes, help get that moist air higher up into the atmosphere, eventually leading to that instability.

Peter Kimbell, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, told Global News, “The threat is, statistically, not nearly as significant as it is in the States for tornadoes. But it’s there.”

Here’s a look at some of the deadliest tornadoes in Ontario. Fujita Scale ratings are from F0 (weakest) to F5 (strongest). There has never been an F5 tornado in Ontario.

June 17, 1946, F4

  • Location: Windsor, Tecumseh
  • 17 killed
  • 3rd deadliest tornado in Canadian history

May 31, 1985, F4

  • Location: Barrie, Grand Valley, Orangeville, Tottenham (typically referred to as the “Barrie Tornado”)
  • 13 confirmed tornadoes
  • 12 people killed, 8 in Barrie
  • Hundreds injured
  • More than 300 buildings destroyed
  • More than 100 buildings damaged
  • 800 homeless
  • Cost: $100 million

(Also of note: Tornado struck close to Grand Valley, Orangeville and Tottenham that day, 4 other people killed)

Neighbours and volunteers take time out for lunch on June 2, 1985 as clean-up efforts begin in Barrie following a major tornado.

CP PHOTO/ Tim Clark

April 3, 1974, F3

  • Location: Windsor
  • Part of 1974 “Super Outbreak”
  • 8 killed
  • 20 injured
  • $500,000 in damage

May 21, 1953, F4

  • Location: Sarnia
  • 7 killed
  • 40 injured
  • 500 homeless

August 20, 1970, F3

  • Lively, Copper Cliff
  • 10 people killed
  • 300 people injured
  • 300 homes damaged
  • $17 million damage

August 7, 1979, F4

  • Location: Woodstock, Stratford
  • 3 killed
  • Hundreds injured
  • More than 450 homes damaged
  • $100 million in damage

Of note:

August 20, 2009, F2

  • Location: Woodbridge
  • 18 tornadoes, making it the largest outbreak in Canadian history

A home damaged during the Woodbridge tornado in 2009.

Nicole Mortillaro/Global News

August 21, 2011, F3

  • Location: Goderich (waterspout that came ashore)
  • 1 person killed
  • 40 injured

(Source: Environment Canada and Ontario Tornado Watch)

Note: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that the Windsor 1974 tornado occurred on August 7.

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