Environment Canada has confirmed the first tornado of 2016 in Canada touched down Wednesday afternoon near Mount Forest, Ont., about 70 kilometres northwest of Guelph, leaving snapped trees and a damaged barn in its wake.
"There was a confirmed tornado that occurred that afternoon around 3:50 p.m. or so and it was confirmed as a high-end EF 1. The EF scale goes from zero through 5," said Mark Schuster, a severe-weather meteorologist with Environment Canada.
EF stands for Enhanced Fujita Scale, which is used to classify a tornado's strength based on wind speed.
"From the damage caused, we estimate that the winds were about 170 kilometres an hour with the gusts, and so this is the first tornado confirmed for the 2016 season and it is also the earliest confirmed tornado in the province of Ontario," said Schuster.
As far as Environment Canada knows, this is the earliest in the calendar year that a tornado has been reported.
"There's never been a tornado in January or February before — that we know of, anyway, that's ever been reported — and none has ever been reported earlier in March than this one," Schuster said. "I think that part of the reason too is, if you go back 20 or 30 years ago or even farther back, it's possible that tornados, there may have been an earlier occurrence of one, it's just people didn't have their smartphones to take pictures."
Environment Canada said the tornado's path stretched over 3.5 kilometres and was 200 metres wide.
This tornado is the earliest recorded in Ontario, and is the 1st of the season in Canada. Other parts of Canada have had earlier tornadoes.— Dave Sills (@dave_sills) 17 March 2016
The tornado touched down seven kilometres northeast of Clifford, Ont., which is in Wellington County, near Mount Forest.
Schuster said that it's usually too cold in the winter to see a tornado.
The last time there was a tornado in March in Ontario was on March 27, 1991. That twister, near Sarnia, caused more than $28 million in damage.