CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Tornado Wind

In later years , after McKerrow , my Dad often referred to the tornado that past through McKerrow and ended at Lake Agnew . He described a wind that ripped off roofs and tore out trees that crossed the tracks a mile from the house and cut a swath on a path to the lake .

 At the lake , the devastation that only a tornado can cause abruptly ended , dumping large amounts of debris into the south end water . He recalls seeing fascinating things such as a small tree branch driven through some one's roof board , and surrounding trees with pieces of grass driven straight into the wood . He talked of roof peaks poking out of the lake as well as all sorts of household debris floating there with trees and mats of grass .

Mum recounted a big wind with hail and driving rain that hit the house like a hammer which snapped her clothesline pole , leaving her freshly washed laundry strewn across the marsh ... some pieces of which she never recovered . As a little girl I imagined them floating in Lake Agnew and wondered why they just didn't go to the lake and get them .

I thought I'd research the area for tornadoes in 1950 but came up with no major event that warranted newspaper coverage or recorded data from that time and location . There had been no deaths so it wasn't news worthy . It hadn't destroyed the mill in Espanola so it wasn't news worthy . But it had affected the local people and formed itself into a family tale for us .

What I did discover was that over the previous decade there had been an increase in tropical storms and hurricanes from the Caribbean and South Atlantic making their way further north . At landfall , many of these massive , moisture laden systems went far inland bringing with them intense winds and rainfall . Usually these systems petered out into heavy rainstorms with moderate winds .

In 1949 , there had been at least 4 major storm systems that passed up through the Great Lakes area that deflated over the cooler water into minor storms . But there was a pattern of them moving further north each year depending on where hurricanes made landfall on the eastern seaboard . It was becoming a regular enough occurrence that the system of naming the tropical storms and hurricanes was developed in 1950 to make tracking easier and quicker .

Insurance companies were asking for more accurate information...no doubt to charge higher premiums in high risk areas . Their interest meant there were more claims related to storm damage being made . Major weather patterns were beginning to change . It is entirely possible that a fast moving system made its way across Lake Huron onto the North Shore , perhaps spawning a funnel cloud in the McKerrow area .

 A more likely cause lies in the Great Lakes themselves...creator of massive thunderstorms that would scare even the most hearty by their ferocity and size . McKerrow lies north of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay not far east of where it joins Lake Superior . Lake Huron is a shallow , broad lake that warms up quickly , releasing its moisture easily to the air . In prolonged, hot , humid summer weather , you can watch the formation of storms over the Lake . As the wet air warms it rises higher and higher and you may see the specks of eagles riding the drafts in and out of the clouds . Air from others places is sucked from below building even higher cloud towers which appear lined up anxious to move forward toward the shores . When the cold air that sits over Lake Superior - a deep cold lake that never warms except in shallow bays - is sucked into the hot moist storms developing on Lake Huron the power builds . Hot meeting cold with flashes of light and distant rumbling ; rising and falling drafts in a wild dance create forceful winds and water spouts at its base ; building great black cloud towers that rollover themselves to reach the shore . And when the storm finally reaches land , the great towers crash down in cold winds that drive hail in front of the storm . There is a continuous rumble and crack of thunder accompanying flashes and webs of lightening ...there is no space to relax . The storm is here and you must steady your heart to pray it flings no stray whirling funnel your way , and that you will survive its power . Meet the Thunder birds .

I believe it was one of these funnels thrown off by a thunderstorm that my parents experienced in such a localized area the summer of 1950 .

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