Thursday, March 09, 2017

Wild windstorm blasts Ontario and Great Lakes basin

Just one of the hundreds of trees that fell across the Great Lakes basin on Wednesday. (CBC Windsor)
We can call it the storm that just won't go away. A monster of a low-pressure system that developed in Montana last weekend is still spinning across far northern Canada. The storm has been responsible for one form or another of severe weather for almost half the North American continent. The week started with a ferocious blizzard across the northern plains and eastern Prairies. Brandon, Manitoba had 41cm of fresh snow, along with winds of 90km/h, producing an incredible 31 consecutive hours of visibility below 400m (0.25 miles). Lynn Lake had 67cm of snow. The storm center deepened rapidly as it swept north, with a hurricane-like low pressure of 95.03kPa (950mb) at Winnipeg, Manitoba, 93.41 kPa (934mb) at Kenora, Ontario and 93.25 kPa (932mb) at Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

The strong winds not only produced the blizzard, but also fanned brush fires in the southern plains and Midwest. In addition to the wind, strong thunderstorms and tornadoes produced widespread damage, with fatalities across the central US.

By Wednesday, it was the Great Lakes region, southern Ontario and even western Quebec that felt the impact of this system. Winds gusted over 100km/h from Michigan and Ohio into western New York and Ontario. The wind cut power to millions of homes, one million in Michigan alone. According to Hydro One, 68,000 clients were in the dark in southwest Ontario. Numerous accidents were reported, as semi-trucks were blown off highways. Ontario Provincial Police were forced to close the Burlington Skyway for hours, after it became too dangerous to negotiate. Widespread structural damage and tree loss were reported. Many of those trees crashed onto homes and cars. Extensive damage was also observed in western New York, including Greece, Rochester and Buffalo. In Detroit, an arson fire was blown out of control by 100km/h winds, resulting in five fatalities. In Ontario, a peak wind of 115km/h was observed at Hamilton, with 91km/h at Toronto Island. In Montreal, winds gusted to 85km/h around 4pm. In the wake of the storm, frigid air will pour into southern Ontario and Quebec over the next few days. Winds in southern Quebec will continue to gust between 30 and 50km/h through Friday.

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