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Straight-line winds from thunderstorm wreak havoc in Ridgetown, Ont.

August 2, 2023 
By Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

While a tornado was being investigated as the cause of major damage in Blenheim, weather experts believe straight-line winds were responsible for damage in the Ridgetown and East Kent area of Ontario from the severe thunderstorm that struck the area just after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26.

“We are confident that aside from the Blenheim damage, everything else was caused by straight-line winds,” said David Sills, executive director of the Northern Tornadoes Project.

Sills said there was widespread wind damage across southwestern Ontario, including the Kingsville and Harrow areas, and lower Michigan into upstate New York.

The storm knocked out power to 1,580 Entegrus customers in Ridgetown, according to Abbey Haynes, Entegrus Corporate Communications Specialist.


Most had power restored by late Thursday afternoon.

Hundreds of Ontario Hydro customers in the outlying area, including Morpeth and Rondeau Park, were also powerless.

Ontario Hydro did not have a breakdown by region for outage numbers but said there were 26,000 customers across the province without power as a result of the storm.

Hydro in town went out around 4:45 p.m. as the powerful storm line moved west-to-east. Most customers had power restored by 10:50 p.m., but some businesses on the south side of Main St. were still without power most of Thursday.

The southeast side of town seemed to bear the brunt of the storm’s fury, namely Ebenezer and Jane Streets. Large trees took down wires on Ebenezer St. near Erie St. and the corner of Jane and Broadway.

There were also trees and branches down on several streets, including Cecil, Main, Warwick and Lynn.

Damage wasn’t solely confined to the southeast side of town as a large tree toppled on at the Carpet Showroom on Main St. W. and a hydro pole on Scane Road northwest of town. There were also reports of other trees and large branches down throughout the East Kent area.

This was the second major storm that left hundreds of Ridgetown residents without power for an extended period of time. An ice storm on Feb. 22-23 knocked out power to a large section of town for several hours.

Meanwhile, Northern Tornado Projects investigators performed ground and drone surveillance in the northeast section of Blenheim for a wide path of destruction from Chatham St. N. to the Evergreen Cemetery, with numerous dwellings receiving damage, including a garage on Vander St. that was completely lifted off the ground and destroyed.

Other damage was reported on several other streets, including Anger, Church, Cathcart and Teal. Several large trees fell in Evergreen Cemetery and on Harwich Road.

Sills posted on Twitter that it appeared there was rotation over Blenheim, based on KCLE radar.

The NTP, based out of Western University, determined that an EF1 Tornado caused a 10.5 km path of destruction in south Raleigh Twp. in another powerful thunderstorm that struck the region on Thursday, July 20.

The EF1 tornado, which had a base of 850 metres and a maximum speed of 175 km/kr, touched down on the 11th Concession, east of A.D. Shadd Road, and travelled to the Bloomfield Road-Talbot Trail intersection in a storm on Thursday, July 20.

Several buildings were damaged, including a home on the 15th Concession between Four Rod Road and Bloomfield, where a father and two sons took refuge in the basement and were guided out of the structure by Raleigh South Fire Station 17 firefighters.

Chatham-Kent Fire & Rescue (CKF&R) issued a safety reminder for residents in the event of hazardous weather in advance of last Wednesday’s storm.

CKF&R recommends preparing a 72-hour emergency kit and gathering food, water and medicine before a storm hits in case you are without power, gas and water for an extended period.

“Know the difference between a watch and a warning,” said Whitney Burk, CKF&R public information officer. “A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in and near your area. A warning means a tornado is near, and you need to move to a safe location right away. The best protection is a smaller room with no windows on the lowest level.”

CKF&R advises residents to monitor local weather, as an alert can come through in many forms, including radio, television and cellphone and have a backup way to charge phones or have a crank radio if the power goes out.

Signs of dangerous weather include:

  • An extremely dark sky, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds;
  • A rumbling sound or a whistling sound;
  • A funnel cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.

As damaging winds can result in downed wires, residents should always play it safe and assume that downed power lines are energized.

You should never try to move downed wires or remove tree limbs and keep people and pets at least 10 meters (33 feet, or the length of a school bus) away from downed overhead power lines and warn others of the danger.

Michael Bennett is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for the Ridgetown Independent News.

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