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Old 08-28-2009, 06:50 PM
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Photos Re: Aug.4, 1999 - storm chase, tornado damage in Hamilton

TORNADO DESTROYS HOUSE TRAILER
SUSAN CLAIRMONT
The Spectator
A tornado that destroyed a trailer in Burlington and another that ripped the
roof off a Hamilton Mountain house rattled the unscathed homeowners.
Weather experts were less impressed by the weakling storm.
Funnel clouds that touched down twice yesterday afternoon during violent
thunderstorms were spectacular to most who witnessed their fury. But
Environment Canada officials say that on a tornado scale of zero to five, this
weather show ranked zip.
The funnel clouds were as weak as they could be while still ranking as
tornadoes, said Andrea Sale of Environment Canada's Toronto office.
RIPPED OFF ROOF
Tell that to Dave Prosia and his mother Wilma.
The two were at their Stone Church Road East home just after 1 p.m. when
the first minor tornado ripped off a section of their roof, leaving the living
room exposed.
Just moments before, the swirling winds outside the window had persuaded
the Prosias to seek shelter in the basement.
Neighbours reported seeing shingles, aluminum siding and a plastic lawn chair
spiralling in mid-air above the street.
Less than an hour later, John and Karen Hawkins' trailer was destroyed when
one of the tornados picked it up from its site in Lost Forest Park on
Milburough Line in Burlington and broke it in pieces.
About 2 p.m. the sky over the trailer park became extraordinarily dark.
A moment later, a southeast wind sliced through the area, leaving all but the Hawkins' trailer untouched.
The couple was not home at the time.
Even weak tornadoes are rare in southern Ontario.
No other tornadoes were reported in the province.
"You're unique in that you had your very own tornadoes," weather specialist Sale told The Spectator.
A severe storm warning was in effect for the region, but the tornadoes were not anticipated.
Meteorologists are only capable of forecasting them a couple of hours in advance, if at all.
Using the international measuring stick, called the Fujita scale, to assess the tornado's intensity, Sale
said our drama came up short in the bigger scheme of the world's extreme weather.
An F5 tornado is the worst, the sort that leaves towns destroyed and people dead. Sale said Canada
has never had an F5. The closest we've come in Ontario is the F4 that hit Barrie several years ago.
The last tornado to hit this area was an F1. It severely injured a man in Flamborough last summer when
it threw a tree on top of him while he was hunting in the bush off Edgewood Road.
Though Sale and other Environment Canada experts are already calling yesterday's storms tornadoes, it
takes a lot more than that to make it official.
First, a severe weather meteorologist must study the pattern of the storm based on eyewitness accounts
and, in this case, digital photographs sent by e-mail.
The funnel clouds had barely dispersed from outside his office window when Brent Malseed, an
employee at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters near the Burlington Skyway was electronically
sending his computerized tornado images to The Spectator and Environment Canada.
"I turned and looked out the window while I was on the phone and I saw it swirling," he said.
"It was black and it went way up. It came down on a bit of an angle."
Grabbing his office's digital camera, Malseed snapped a couple of shots of the funnel cloud through his
office window.
The pictures helped Environment Canada evaluate the storm just moments after it hit.
Rob Simpson, a weather service specialist, said the photos showed a tornado just lifting off the ground.
"When a tornado starts to lift again, it turns back into a funnel cloud,'' he explained.
He called this a tornado because it was on the ground and did cause damage just before the photo was
taken.
"We look for particular patterns of damage," Sale said. "Rotation in the pattern of damage as it's spread
across the ground is the key."
The final confirmation that these were indeed tornadoes will come if and when weather specialists from
Toronto make the trek to Burlington and Hamilton to survey the scene.
Sale said the experts go to learn more about the twisters "so we can get better at forecasting these
beasts."
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