Toronto had another brush with severe weather Sunday, with warnings for funnel clouds, torrential rain, hail and damaging winds issued across the southern part of the province.
While the city was for the most part spared the effects of the frightening forecast, not everyone made it out unscathed.
A 22-year-old man remains in serious condition after he was struck by lightning Sunday afternoon as he played football near Victoria Park Ave. and Gerrard St. North of the city, in King Township, a home went up in flames after it was hit by a bolt of lightning.
Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada, said he’s noticed a spike in storm activity this summer, largely due to the hot, hazy temperatures rolling into town.
“Year-to-year, about 10 people are killed and between 100 and 150 injured by lightning,” he said. “Any thunderstorm, by definition, has lightning associated with it and it can be deadly . . . When the sky roars, get indoors.”
According to Coulson, one of the main ingredients for this summer’s active weather is the heat and humidity that Torontonians have been experiencing – and complaining about. The city has been experiencing average temperatures significantly higher than normal every month this summer, he said.
In May, for instance, values taken from Pearson Airport show the average temperature as 16 C, more than 3 degrees above the normal average of 12.9 C. In June, July and August, the temperature has also topped out well above the normal values.
“These numbers won’t surprise anybody,” Coulson said. “Since January, we’ve known conditions will be warmer than normal.”
Torontonians might also be feeling the heat more this year because it’s not cooling off as much as it typically does in the overnight hours.
“It makes it difficult for people who have problems in this kind of weather – they’re just not getting the relief,” he said.
The perpetually steamy conditions are doing more than making people uncomfortable – they’re also generating stormy conditions that have led to an abundance of tornado activity across the province.
“We’ve had 10 tornados so far this summer in Ontario,” Coulson said. “The average is 11 per season, which runs from April until first week of October. There’s a good chance we’ll beat that average.”
“The way things stand, we have another six weeks of potential for damaging storms.”
This blustery weather – the sort that generates tornado activity – is largely dependent on what currents of air are doing within a storm system.
As humidity is sucked in by an updraft, hail and snow are evaporated, which accelerates the speed of the downward winds. That quickening movement is what we typically associate with the rain and high winds that characterize summer storms that seem to come out of nowhere, Coulson said.
“Late in the day the sky really darkens up and that’s usually when some of these more intense storms come through.”
Luckily for city dwellers, some relief will come this week with a quiet forecast boasting temperatures in the mid-20s and low levels of humidity.
--Teri Pecoskie, Staff Reporter