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Environment Canada investigating two possible tornadoes in southwestern Ontario

Environment Canada is investigating reports of two tornadoes that may have touched down in southwestern Ontario during dramatic thunderstorms yesterday evening.

Residents in the area of Leamington and Hawkesville took to social media last night just after two storms hit to post pictures and testimony of what they witnessed.

One resident in Leamington caught a photo of their possible tornado that Kuhn called “clear-cut.”

“In my opinion, that’s going to be a confirmed tornado,” said Rob Kuhn, a severe weather meteorologist with Environment Canada.

“Public reports come in, and if there’s enough of them and if they look like they bear some weight … we try and send out an investigative team to check it out,” Kuhn said.

A damage survey team is looking into a tornado that may have touched down in Hawkesville, near Waterloo, Kuhn said, adding that “there is damage in the area: downed power lines and debris in open fields.”

There was also “structural damage” found in the area, of a “two by four constructed wall that was ripped up and tossed,” possibly a part of a barn, as well as aluminum siding and “some kind of silo.”

“Something was destroyed,” Kuhn said.

The damage in the Hawkesville area continued east towards Elmira and possibly stretched south towards the village of Maryhill as well, he said.

Thunderstorms moved over Leamington at 5:40 p.m., and over Hawkesville at 7:30 p.m. If confirmed, these will be the seventh and eighth tornadoes in Ontario since March, following two tornadoes that touched down in Muskoka only last week.

Another resident posted a video on Twitter of the funnel cloud in the distance.

“There are some reports of damage there to solar panels and a greenhouse,” Kohn confirmed, stating that the Hawkesville reported tornado is the current priority. “The one in Hawkesville may have more damage associated with it than Leamington.”

Environment Canada put out a severe thunderstorm watch just after 1 p.m. on Friday for the Waterloo-Wellington area, which was upgraded to a warning at 6:51 p.m. The severe thunderstorm warning included a mention of a possible “isolated, brief tornado” touching down, forty minutes before that warning turned into an official tornado warning at 7:30 p.m.

Waterloo Regional Police confirmed that they got a call at 7:36 p.m. for a possible tornado passing through, and said there were no injuries.

“Any severe thunderstorm can produce a tornado without warning,” Kuhn said.

Although they don’t know yet how powerful the potential tornadoes could have been, Kuhn said that the current damage assessment indicated that there were likely winds gusts within the thunderstorm of at least 90 km/h.

The two tornadoes didn’t spring from the same thunderstorm, but from the same cold front, Kuhn said. The outer regions of the GTA also felt the pressure from this storm system, with several severe thunderstorm watches announced around 8 p.m. last night.

Kuhn was driving home to Kitchener into the same thunderstorm that affected Hawkesville yesterday evening, and said it had “one heck of a lot of lightning.”

The constant lightning lasted for around half an hour, he says, but storms continued in the area until “at least 11 p.m.”

“When you were outside, you could see it to the north, and it was just non-stop rumbling. It just kept going, it’s really quite amazing.”

At home, his dog did not appreciate the spectacle: “when there’s continuous thunder, (he) just sits there and barks at it.”