Editorial: Living in 2020’s tornado alley

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We didn’t know we would be in one of Ontario’s tornado alleys when we moved a short 10-minute drive south of our previous home more than a decade ago.

But two tornados within seven kilometres of our farm in the past three months has my family more vigilant during hot and sultry days when a storm starts to blow. Those are not the first in the area over the past 10 years.

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I have to preface any concern about tornados in my area by saying that the scale of tornados we get in Ontario pales in comparison to the fearsome giants that wreck communities in the United States. The Canadian Prairies also get bigger twisters.

But small tornadoes have become a regular visitor in the area north of Highway 7 to Exeter.

Shortly after we moved here, I remember hearing about a tornado a few kilometres south of us that took the roof off a garage.

This summer, however, there have been two. The first was about five km away and moved a grain bin off its moorings and shoved it up against another bin at the Knip farm on Hwy. 4 between Lucan and Exeter.

The second was on Aug. 27, north and west of the first tornado. It flattened an old bank barn at the Hall farm, on Mount Carmel road.

Luckily these tornados were low level; the one on Aug. 27 was graded EF-1.

The storm surrounding the tornado and the twister itself took down many trees and hydro poles in the area and we were without power for 30 hours.

The damage to trees was impressive. I’ve always loved tree-lined roads, with old oaks and maples and elms providing an interesting canopy as you drive. In this area, many old maples have lined the roads. I remember being perturbed when municipal crews seemed to find work each summer cutting down some of these great old trees.

The recent tornados have reminded me why, sadly, maple tree culling is necessary as three old maples split and fell in our concession alone — all of them brittle and hollow to the core. Luckily they didn’t end up on the road, although they fell into a neighbour’s soybean field.

Several days after the storm went through, farmers were still working at cleaning up tree debris. I still have to deal with a downed tree in a soybean field.

The two storms meant the loss of what I call sentinel trees, especially one just up the Ausable River from the steel bridge down the sideroad beside our place. We often ride our bikes or run to that spot. It was a lonely maple, many times photographed by our neighbours and ourselves, casting its reflection into the water, or as a foreground to a sunset shot. It’s a bit strange to say, but we’ll miss that tree.

The recent storms provide a good reminder of the power of nature to reshape the landscape. Water relentlessly moves dirt. Wind reshapes soil, plants and trees. We humans get a bit excited about it, but we also adapt, figure out solutions and move on, although perhaps learning some caution and respect for the forces we can’t control.

Protests, but within limits

It was good to see the province quickly moving some provisions of Bill 156 into place. The Bill, which aims to create zones that protect areas of animal production from entry by trespassers, was still in the regulation creation stage, even though it had been passed by the legislature and received royal assent.

Duelling protests, at a busy intersection near the Sofina Foods plant in Burlington — all around moving transport trucks — were a recipe for greater disaster. A protester was killed there earlier this spring, when she got in front of a transport truck. Recently supporters of truckers and food producers had started counter-protests. They were rightly fed up with how truckers, who were just doing their jobs, were being treated.

Protesting is fine and an important right to be maintained in Canada, but when the safety of truckers, protesters, animals, police and others are being put at risk, then something has to be done.

About the author

Editor

John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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