Hot, Wet and Dangerous: A Brief History of Tornadoes in the Maritimes


During a hot and humid summer like this, we often see thunderstorms developing. And — although it’s not common — it’s important to remember that thunderstorms can produce tornadoes, even here in the Maritimes.

The majority of tornadoes that have touched down in the Maritimes have done so in New Brunswick, where temperatures are warmer and thunderstorms are sometimes powerful enough to produce a tornado.

In fact, there are 35 tornadoes recorded as having touched down in New Brunswick.

Most of them were in the central regions of the province and were force EF0 or EF1, with winds of up to 175 kilometers per hour.

Tornadoes in Canada are rated using the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF). It goes from EF0 to EF5. The greater the storm damage, the higher the rating.

This map shows where tornadoes hit Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. (Ryan Snoddon/CBC)

Each rating includes an estimate of the wind speed during the tornado. For example, an EF2 tornado has estimated wind speeds between 180 and 220 kilometers per hour. For an EF5 tornado, the wind speed is estimated at 315 km/h or more.

The EF scale, used by Environment Canada since 2013, is an improved version of the Fujita scale, developed in the 1970s by T. Theodore Fujita, a meteorologist at the University of Chicago.

In New Brunswick, three separate EF2 tornadoes touched down in the 1980s and 1990s, including one just outside Fredericton in 1995.

A road sign was rammed into the side of a building during an EF1 tornado that hit the Edmundston area in 2004. (Radio Canada)

There is even a registered EF3. This particular tornado hit Bouctouche in August 1879. This storm killed seven people and injured 10, destroying 42 homes, 52 barns and the local school.

Nova Scotia has nine tornado touchdowns. The EF1 tornado that touched down in Stewiacke on June 30, 2021 was the first confirmed tornado in the province in two decades. He was on the ground for more than 600 meters, destroying a barn.

A few weeks later, another EF0 tornado was spotted in Antrim. There were also touchdowns at Lantz in 1997 and Pugwash in 1999 – both of which were EF0 storms.

Jeff McCurdy captured this image of a barn flattened by a tornado in Stewiacke in 2021. (Submitted by Jeff McCurdy)

Perhaps the most notable tornado on the list occurred on January 30, 1954. In the warm sector of a winter storm moving up the Atlantic coast, a thunderstorm-producing tornado hit the coast near White Point Beach, just south of Liverpool.

The tornado stayed on the ground for just over a mile, snapping trees, damaging cabins and destroying a barn. The wreckage was blown over a mile and beams were found sunk more than a foot into the ground.

Former meteorologist Rube Hornstein documented the extremely rare winter storm for the Royal Meteorological Society and wrote “statistical data indicates that the tornado which struck White Point Beach at 11:40 p.m. AST on January 30 should be classified as a weather phenomenon.”

Television meteorologist Rube Hornstein delivers a forecast from Saint Mary’s University in 1958. (St. Mary’s University)

Even PEI. recorded six tornadoes, the most recent of which occurred in August 2007 in Crapaud.

The most notable appears to be an EF1 tornado, which damaged an 18-kilometre stretch just west of Charlottetown in 1974. The storm flattened cornfields and lifted a mobile home from its blocks.

So while tornadoes are rare here in the Maritimes, it’s important to remember that they do happen. Stay tuned for the forecast and remember when thunder rolls, come inside.

Thanks to David Sills and the team of the Northern Tornadoes Project and ECCC’s Climate Atlantic for their help in collecting the data.

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