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Death toll rises in Canada after derecho leaves widespread destruction


A destructive thunderstorm complex that swept from Windsor and Toronto to Quebec City over the weekend knocked out power for hundreds of thousands.

Massive power outages and at least ten casualties were the result of a powerful thunderstorm complex, known as a derecho, riding through a densely-populated corridor of southeastern Ontario and Quebec over the weekend.

In Ontario, 9 deaths were caused by falling trees, part of the massive damage due to winds that gusted up to 82 mph, according to local reports. All deaths in Ontario were caused directly by the storm or its aftermath, according to CBC.

Police reports from the area say the fatalities include a 44-year-old man, a woman in her 70s that was out walking, a 59-year-old man on a golf course and one person killed in their camping trailer. Additionally, a woman in Quebec died after she was caught in a boat that was capsized in the midst of the storm.

A 61-year-old from Lakefield, Ontario, was killed due to a falling tree from the storm, Peterborough Police confirmed on Monday.

Nearly one million people were left without power in the wake of the destructive weather, with nearly 300,000 residents still in the dark as of Tuesday morning.

The storm, according to Environment and Climate Change meteorologist Gerald Cheng, has the same markings of a derecho, a rapidly-moving thunderstorm complex that produces widespread wind damage.

"When you look at the damage, that was widespread, it wasn't just one track," Cheng said.

AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Johnathan Porter said the derecho traveled an area of roughly 18 million people, which is nearly 47% of the country's population, according to AccuWeather's data analytics tools.

"Saturday’s devastating windstorm across southeastern Canada is likely to be remembered as one of the most impactful, if not most impactful, thunderstorm complexes to affect Canada," Porter explained.

This derecho event caused wind gusts above 75 mph for hours on end across Canada, carving a remarkable laser-like precision path from southwest to northeast in Canada's most densely populated areas, which included Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

While derechos occur from time to time in the country, they are rare. Two notable derecho events in Ontario occurred in May 1998 and July 1995, but were different from this year's occurrence.

"In both of those cases, storms were moving from generally northwest to southeast and as such, they affected only a portion of this heavily populated corridor of Canada," said Porter.

In contrast, the Saturday derecho moved southwest to northeast along highly populated areas, causing high impacts from the destructive thunderstorms.

"These intense windstorms often bring a period of hurricane-force wind gusts which are known for destroying roofs, downing many trees and power lines, creating dangerous flying debris and result in significant property damage over wide areas," said Porter.

As a result of the early Saturday chaos, the Ontario towns of Uxbridge and Clarence-Rockford declared states of emergency, with the immediate concern being the thousands of residents stranded without power. Crews are currently working to restore services in both provinces, which may hit a snag due to the damage caused.

"Between trees, branches, broken poles and wires down, it's really a very...messy cleanup," Hydro One spokeswoman Tiziana Baccega Rosa told The Star. Hydro One, Ontario's largest utility provider, stated that over 340,000 Hydro One customers were without power during the height of the storm.

Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad said this storm, which downed 4 transmission towers, caused more damage to their infrastructure than tornadoes in 2018, and even surpassed the infamous ice storm of 1998.

In Fort Erie, Ontario, the stormy weather gave way to a foggy morning, showcasing the wild ride Ontario residents have gone on over the past day.