Featuring Connor Mockett
Hello, everyone! Welcome back to another The Weather with Connor column. This week I’d like to catch up on a chase that happened the day after I wrote my last column. I’ll be writing about the storms of August 3rd, the day a tornado went through the Findlay Creek, part of Ottawa South.
I’ll start with the day before, August 2nd. Models were showing parameters around the Eastern Ontario region that would be capable of producing large hail, strong winds, and a tornado or two. I knew that there’d be a couple rounds of storms in the early afternoon, later in the afternoon, and then evening. The late afternoon and evening storms would then combine. With the parameters in place, any supercell would have a chance to produce a tornado. With all that in mind, I knew August 3rd would be a day to remember. I ended my night on August 2nd thinking that my target of Ottawa’s west end would likely be okay. And with that, I went to bed.
And now here we are. August 3rd, the day of the tornado. I started my day early, leaving at noon for the early afternoon storms. The first storms of the day were closer to the St. Lawrence Seaway, with one storm catching my eye near Prescott and Spencerville. This storm was very slow moving right from the start, as it was latched onto an outflow boundary from the overnight thunderstorms. It quickly became a supercell, and I gained eyes on it shortly after 2:00pm. The supercell was near Spencerville at this point, and was a beautiful low precipitation storm, with the wall cloud and mesocyclone very visible without rain blocking it. It tried to produce a tornado around 2:25pm, with the wall cloud quickly rotating above a forested area northwest of Spencerville. However, this storm was even cooler for something else. After 2:30pm, the storm was completely, and I mean completely, gone by 2:45pm. Evaporated into dust, basically. Never seen anything like that, a storm evaporating so fast.
After that storm died, I went back to Kemptville and met up with my chase partner for the day, who was Mike Higgins (Michael Higgins Photographic on Facebook). Our plan that day was to do something we’ve both never done before. We filmed a video focused on me about the entire chase. We left Kemptville after setting up, and went to my target area of Carp, in Ottawa’s west end. After waiting for the right storm to blow up, finally we had a storm absolutely explode right over Arnprior, and very quickly become a supercell that would also very quickly go tornado-warned.
We hopped on the 417 and went towards the storm, getting off the highway at Kinburn. Immediately, we saw the first part of the storm that caused the tornado warning, which was the rotating funnel cloud over open fields. With all the fields around, that would have been a nice place for the tornado to form. Unfortunately it didn’t happen there, and waited a couple hours more to produce.
It tried hard again to produce not far after Kinburn. Rotation was strong in the wall cloud that was basically directly over top of Dunrobin, which would’ve been the absolute worst case scenario after what happened to them in 2018. After Dunrobin, it cycled a few times, but it seemed to me like it was dying as it entered Kanata. During this time, the 3rd round of storms was quickly catching up to the 2nd round of storms, which was the supercell in Ottawa.
As the supercell passed Bells Corners and went into Barrhaven, it ramped back up quickly again, as the wall cloud was rotating quickly right overtop of Woodroofe, Merivale, and Prince of Wales Road. However, that one also quickly died off, and the storm then cycled again. The next cycle of the storm is when it would finally produce.
We crossed over the Strandherd Bridge, looked out my window, and the storm had already completed its next cycle and had a rapidly rotating wall cloud already, right next to Earl Armstrong Road. At this time, the other storm was catching up fully, and colliding with the supercell. When that happens, extra vorticity from the other storm feeds into the storm ahead of it. The wall cloud was very, very rapidly rotating as it went over Albion Road as the storms collided.
After it crossed Albion Road, it finally produced the tornado. We were on Rideau Road looking to my north as it went through Findlay Creek, producing some minor damage as it went through the community. It was on the ground from Albion Road to Bank Street, a couple kilometers. Thankfully, damage was relatively minor, other than a house that had part of its roof ripped off.
No injuries, no deaths, minor damage. That’s about as good as it can get when a tornado goes through a populated area. This was also my first tornado as a storm chaser, and it was for Mike as well!
After we paralleled the tornado on Rideau Road to Bank Street, we went over to Ramsayville Road, where we drove south to get out of the main part of the storm because we weren’t sure if the tornado was still on the ground, so we wanted to get out of there. We drove back to Findlay Creek after that to assess damage, which as I mentioned, was minor. We stuck around talking to people in the community about the event, and then eventually headed home to end our crazy day.
A day that we’ll both never forget.