Monday, August 08, 2016

Sunday’s tornado watch advisory a rare event for Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia

SYDNEY — The tornado watch issued for southeastern Cape Breton during a tumultuous few hours of weather late Sunday afternoon was a rare occurrence for the island, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist.

A tornado watch was issued for Sydney Metro and Cape Breton County at 5:37 p.m. Sunday and ended less than an hour later at 6:24 p.m., as an intense thunderstorm moved across the southern part of the island.

“The thunderstorm itself started right around Antigonish County and it moved right over to Port Hawkesbury and right up the eastern side of Cape Breton,” said Tracey Talbot, an Environment Canada meteorologist. “They triggered the (tornado) watch when the storm itself was right around Irish Cove and that area. By the time it hit the Marion Bridge area it had tapered off.”

Despite the watch, Talbot said no tornadoes were confirmed to have happened on the island on Sunday.

“There was one report of wind damage that we did get and that was in Grand Mira South,” she said, noting the report was of damage to boats and a trailer at a summer residence. “It was definitely wind damage that they seemed to experience. Whether it was rotational wind or straight-line wind, we can’t confirm that.”

In addition to the tornado watch, a severe thunderstorm watch and then warning was in effect for much of Cape Breton late in the afternoon Sunday.

But it was the tornado watch that generated the most talk among Cape Bretoners, Sunday. It was only the second time a tornado advisory has been issued on the island in the last 10 years — the only other being on July 20, 2013 when a tornado warning was issued, also for Sydney Metro and Cape Breton County.

Talbot said that, generally speaking, tornado watches and warnings are rare across Nova Scotia. However, over the years there have been unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds over land or water, even when a tornado watch or warning is not in effect.

Talbot explained that a tornado watch is issued when very specific conditions are observed by meteorologists.

“The forecasters on the desk are monitoring Doppler radar and when they see the suggestion of rotation in those radar images during a thunderstorm, that’s when they will issue these tornado watches,” she said.

As part of its tornado watches and warnings, Environment Canada tells those in affected areas that it is a “dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation,” advising people to take cover immediately, if threatening weather approaches.


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