Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Relax - It’s Only an F2

Last week six tornadoes hit parts of Ontario, Canada where few tornadoes have gone before. Two twisters hit two suburbs north-west of Toronto, they have been confirmed by the nation’s weather watchers - Environment Canada - as F2 on the Fujita Scale which classifies Tornadic activity by wind speed.

The Fujita Scale, or “F-Scale” named after it’s inventor, Ted Fujita who introduced the method to measure the violence of wind storms in 1971, has six le

F4 damage exampleImage via Wikipedia

vels, the least severe of F0 with wind speeds from 64KM/Hour to 116KM/Hour (approximately 40 to 72 miles/hour) to storms where nature’s fury is at it’s worst, an F5 tornado, which has wind speeds from 419KM/Hour to 512KM/Hour (approximately 261 to 318 miles/hour).

For comparison, the weakest tornado at F0 leave light damage to the surrounding area, such as branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over; sign boards damaged and so on. While an F5 tornado is nature’s ultimate killing machine, resulting in total damage to anything in it’s path, including houses lifted off foundations and carried great distances, large tractor-trailers and other cars and trucks picked up like toys and flung through the air creating large and extremely dangerous missiles, debris from houses, cars, trees - anything and everything sucked up by the funnel cloud - shredded into a deadly combination of flying woods, metals, glass, and bodies.

F3 damage exampleImage via Wikipedia

The biggest tornados to hit of the six in Canada’s largest province were F2 - which comes clocking in at about 181KM/Hour to 253KM/Hour (about 110 to 250 miles/hour). Classified as causing considerable damage, roofs are ripped off frame houses, large trees snapped or uprooted; light-objects become flying missiles crashing into buildings, cars and people.

The City of Vaughan, just north of Toronto where these two medium-sized twisters struck declared a state of emergency. The province’s premier and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper both made statements of hope, and promises of help from their respective governments. The media sent their anchors to cover the devastation live, and everyone made a big stink about it.

Though we got off lucky. Not that I have no empathy for those whose homes were smashed, cars crushed, people that were hurt, and the family of the one who lost an 11-year-old son.

But F2 tornadoes are pretty tame compared to some of the massive twisters which have hit far poorer communities in the States. The area the tornadoes did their most damage in Vau

One of several tornadoes observed by the :en:V...Image via Wikipedia

ghan is a pretty affluent one, and although people’s lives were literally uprooted, they have the political and financial means to get back on their feet.

Most people, aren’t so lucky. In the so-called Tornado Alley of America, (from northern Texas, northward through western Oklahoma and Kansas, through eastern Colorado, up through Nebraska, and into southeastern South Dakota, southern Minnesota and western Iowa) much more powerful twisters have ripped through areas of extreme poverty, where those with next to nothing, lose everything.

There have been numerous F5 killer twisters in Tornado Alley - from the first such classified one on May 11, 1953 in Waco, Texas, with 114 lives lost, to March 3, 1966, in Jackson, Mississippi with 57 confirmed deaths, to the more recent F5 tornado on May 3, 1999, at Bridge Creek, in Moore, Oklahoma, with 36 deaths.

The only F5 tornado confirmed in Canada was on June 22, 2007, in Elie, Manitoba, and no lives were lost. Information is scarce from the 1920’s, so the tornado which hid Frobisher, Saskatchewan on July 22, 1920 has never been officially declared an F5, but many believe it to be one. Four people lost their lives in Frobisher’s twister.

Canada’s second deadliest tornado occurred on July 31, 1987 in Edmonton, Alberta, with 27 fatalities, though this tornado was officially classified as a strong F4.

The majority of tornadoes landing in Canada are F1, with the odd F2 and F3. Which is a far cry from the more severe average of F3 and F4 tornadoes to hit the American mid-west’s Tornado Alley.

Tornadoes are dangerous, violent storms, but we Canadians are lucky - we don’t have it as bad as some other places ‘round the globe.

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