Montreal

Was the Lachute twister exceptional? Here's how many tornadoes hit Eastern Canada in 30 years

Most twisters hit unpopulated areas, so few people hear about them

Aylmer tornado, damaged roof

The tornado that struck Aylmer, Que., on Aug. 4, 1994, damaged some 385 homes and injured four people. (CBC)

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The tornado that tore through Lachute, Que., on Tuesday left behind a trail destruction, and forced several dozen people from their homes.

But twisters aren't entirely unusual in the province. 

On average, 17 tornadoes hit Quebec and Ontario every year, according to Environment Canada. In the peak summer season — between June and August — an average of six hit Quebec alone.

But because most of them land far from populated areas, you rarely hear about them. Tuesday's twister in Lachute is a rare exception.

In fact, of the 426 tornadoes tracked in Quebec between 1980 and 2009, only seven were considered a disaster, that is, where people were hurt or property was damaged.

The animated map below shows where tornadoes hit Eastern Canada. The Canadian government has not released any data on tornadoes after 2009.


Sources: Environment Canada, Carto, OpenStreetMap contributors

The vast majority or tornadoes were category 0 on the Fujita scale, meaning winds reached 110 km/h and caused light damage, if any. The Lachute tornado was a category 1. 

Only 15 were category 3, with winds reaching 320 km/h and causing extensive damage. Tornadoes of higher categories were not registered in Quebec.

The Fujita scale goes up to category 5.

tornado chart quebec fujita

Quebec's disastrous tornadoes

Since 1971, there have been nine disaster-level tornadoes in Quebec, according to the Canadian Disaster Database. Here's a summary of each.

May 14, 1971: A tornado damaged 71 homes, and completely destroyed six in Maniwaki, Déléage, Egan and southern Outaouais. Two people were killed and 11 were injured. 

July 25, 1975:  A tornado hit 75 dwellings in Saint-Bonaventure near Trois-Rivières, leaving 45 uninhabitable. Three people were killed and a further 59 injured. A church was completely destroyed.

June 14, 1982: A violent tornado in Laval's Sainte-Rose neighbourhood caused five deaths and injured 26. Hundreds of homes and barns were flattened.

July 15. 1984: One person died and 43 were injured when a tornado tore across Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. As many as 300 homes were destroyed in Sheenboro, Blue Sea Lake, Bouchette and the Caymant region of Outaouais.

Aug. 27, 1991: About 60 per cent of all buildings in Maskinongé were damaged and a few summer cottages were destroyed. Only minor injuries were reported.

Aylmer tornado

Wreckage from a tornado-damaged house in Aylmer, Que., was spread over a wide area on Aug. 5, 1994, a day after a heavy rain storm and tornado passed through the town. (Chuck Mitchell/Canadian Press)

Aug. 4, 1994: A category 3 tornado hit Aylmer, now part of Gatineau, damaging 385 homes and totally destroying 12 others. No one died.

July 6, 1999: One child was killed when a tree collapsed on his tent while he was camping in Drummondville. As many as 60 homes were damaged and 200 people were forced from their homes. At least 4,000 people were without power for two days.

June 29, 2008: A tornado that produced hail the size of golf balls caused extensive damage in Lanaudière, leaving 15,000 homes without power.

Aug. 4, 2009: A category 2 tornado blew away roofs, knocked down walls, flipped over cars, snapped utility poles and downed power lines along a 40-kilometre path from Délage to Mont-Laurier in the Laurentians. Two people were injured.

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