Ontario Storm Rated ‘Right’: What Is It?

The storm that moved through Ontario and Quebec on Saturday is known as a “right,” a powerful type of wind storm that is long-lasting and far-reaching.

The storm that lashed southern Ontario and Quebec before moving into Maine left a trail of destruction in its wake and was responsible for at least eight deaths, including three in eastern Ontario.

Environment Canada Senior Climatologist David Phillips explains that a right is not a common term.

“It’s not a word we use very often because they don’t happen that often,” he said Sunday on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s ‘CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent’. “It’s kind of like a microburst or a thunderstorm, but you get a whole army of them. Imagine the soldiers lining up and taking down the front lines as they go. Meteorologically, that’s essentially what happens.”

The storm moved into Canada from Michigan around 11 a.m. Saturday and hit London, Ontario, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa, before moving into Quebec and then Maine.

“This storm was almost 1,000 kilometers from Michigan to Maine as it passed through Ontario and Quebec. That’s what a right is, it’s a long list of very active thunderstorms or microburst situations. Nothing can dissuade him. It just goes forward,” Phillips said.

Phillips said that a right often has tornado or even hurricane-force winds. Ottawa saw wind gusts of up to 120 km/h and other places saw even stronger winds.

But tornadoes, which are rotational storms, can still be embedded in the generally straight line of a right.

“There could be tornadoes embedded in that kind of right. I haven’t heard of a tornado report, but that doesn’t mean I can’t produce one,” he explained.

Western University’s Northern Tornadoes Project says it is investigating in Uxbridge, Ont. area and just south of Ottawalooking for evidence of possible tornadoes.

Last week, the Northern Tornado Project confirmed an EF0 landspout tornado in the Casselman area, the first Ontario tornado of the 2022 season.

Phillips says that May can be a fickle month when it comes to weather.

“You’ve got that combination of warm and humid air that is possible,” he said, noting that the storm moved when the temperature was in the 30s with a humidex of 38 on Saturday. “There’s always a chance of warm air in May, but cool May air is never too far away.”

It’s when cold, dry air hits warm, moist air that powerful storms can occur, Phillips said.

“You can have air mass storms in July, but what you get in May is that combination of warm air and cold air. In the spring, that’s why there can be violent weather,” Phillips said.

“When you have that kind of atmosphere that changes to another, it’s usually heralded by wild weather, and there it was.”

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