Environment Canada held a media briefing Wednesday, notifying Ontario's public about the province' s severe summer weather events, and offering advice on early warning systems currently in place for Canada's most populous province.
Geoff Coulson, warning preparedness meteorologist at Environment Canada, said during the briefing that on average, most severe weather events in the province occur anywhere between late April to early October. This year, Environment Canada is expecting a little over 125 events across Ontario, as the province heads into its tornado and thunderstorm season.
In Ontario, only five percent of the thunderstorms are considered severe by Environment Canada, with hail larger than 2- centimeter in diameter, and producing 80 to 100 millimeter of heavy rain in matter of hours. The wind gust for severe storms can potentially travel up to 90 kilometer per hour or more.
Coulson advises the public to seek solid indoor shelters away from glass exteriors upon hearing thunder, since it usually precedes lightening strikes within its relative vicinity. In addition, waiting 30 minutes after the last roar of thunder before venturing outside in case of lingering lightening from a departing storm.
For tornadoes, the safety shelter should always be the lowest level structure such as a basement, or when not available, an enclosed space supported by multiple walls, he said, adding the importance of staying away from wide-open buildings like shopping malls and gymnasiums.
According to Environment Canada statistics, Ontario typically receives approximately 13 tornadoes on average from across the province. The record for most tornadoes in a year was set in 2009, with a total of 34.
In 2008, Emergency Management Ontario, a branch of the Ministry of Community and Correctional Services, launched its Red Alert public warning program to send out notices relating to hazardous weather conditions through e-mail, Environment Canada's website, social media outlets and local media. The program was further augmented last year with the introduction of Ontario Emergency Public Warning System, which expands the reach of the existing network.
"Hopefully, this summer we won't need to use them," said Philippe Geoffrion of Emergency Management Ontario. "But definitely if the need is there we will be ready."
Extreme changes in the province's weather are tracked by the Ontario Storm Prediction Center in Toronto, which monitors weather conditions over a weekly 24-hour a day period.
At present, Coulson said, it is still too early for the department to predict the upcoming summer climate in Ontario due to a lack of data on humidity.