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Falmouth homeowner wondering if tornado took out 100-plus trees during Dorian storm

Chris Sullivan is wondering if a mini tornado touched down at his Mines Road property. About 100 trees were damaged following the Sept. 7-8 storm system.
Chris Sullivan is wondering if a mini tornado touched down at his Mines Road property. About 100 trees were damaged following the Sept. 7-8 storm system. - Contributed
FALMOUTH, N.S. —

Chris Sullivan and his partner, Joanne, had just finished clipping siding back onto the garage when they witnessed something they won’t soon forget.

The couple, who live on Mines Road in Falmouth, were out in the storm Sept. 7 when the weather took a dramatic change.

Chris Sullivan says a swath of trees on his property were destroyed Sept. 7 when Dorian hit the Maritimes. - Contributed photos
Chris Sullivan says a swath of trees on his property were destroyed Sept. 7 when Dorian hit the Maritimes. - Contributed photos

“We were standing in the doorway of the garage, watching the rain come down straight, and then all of a sudden, it started going sideways,” recalled Sullivan, adding that it sounded as if a freight train was rolling through.

“I said, 'Wow, this wind is something' and then we heard this big ‘woosh’ and the ground shook. And I imagine that's when all the trees behind the garage came down,” he said.

When they examined the property for damage the following morning, more than 100 trees on his six acre property had been knocked over. Some were uprooted, others were snapped off. Many lay crisscrossed.

“Within just walking around the house and counting trees, there's 100, and it's funny because my neighbour lost one (tree) and my neighbour on the other side lost one so it was like it was pretty centralized where all the damage was,” he said.

Those who visited his property, as he began the arduous task of cleaning up the debris left behind from Dorian, suggested a tornado may have hit while the storm was raging. Sullivan shares a similar hypothesis.

It wasn’t just one kind of tree that fell. From oaks and maples to birch and poplars, the wind storm didn’t discriminate. He’s never seen anything like the damage to his property.

“We know the ground was saturated from the amount of rain we got in the short time, but to snap them healthy trees right off halfway up, there was some wind shear there for sure,” said Sullivan.

Meteorologist Cindy Day said it could have been tornadic activity, or it could have been a straight line wind — both of which, she says, could cause a fair amount of devastation to the property.

“I haven't had any reports of any tornadic activity; I wouldn't be totally surprised to hear that there were tornadoes in the storm itself,” she said in a phone interview.

The outer wall of Dorian produced quite a band of tornadoes in the Carolinas, Day said, but then the band moved off shore.

Chris Sullivan is wondering if a mini tornado touched down at his Mines Road property. About 100 trees were damaged following the Sept. 7-8 storm system.
Chris Sullivan is wondering if a mini tornado touched down at his Mines Road property. About 100 trees were damaged following the Sept. 7-8 storm system.

Day said it would have been fascinating to have been there when the weather event occurred.

“With the way Dorian moved through, we had a strong southeast wind, and then it came around to the northwest pretty quickly. So it would have been interesting to... be right there before the wind flipped around to the northwest to see if it was that wind flip that caused the debris to move around, or if it, in fact, was rotating when the damage happened,” she said.

Day recommends Sullivan contact Environment Canada to have his property checked out by experts. She said they likely would send a team to examine how the trees fell. Not only could they provide an answer — was it a tornado or a straight line wind? — but a visit to the property could help assist with better understanding how large weather systems change once they reach the Atlantic Provinces.

“There's a lot of analysis done with these tropical storms off the eastern seaboard and over the tropics, but once they move into Canadian waters and beyond, there's a lot of changes happening in the dynamics of the storm,” said Day. “So the Environment Canada experts that analyze on the ground damage will certainly like to know specifically if that was tornadic or not, and it helps them understand the systems even better.”

She suggests anyone with storm damage that may have been the result of a tornado to reach out for confirmation.

“If anybody else that's reading it has unusual damage or thinks that there may have been tornadic activity, they too should reach out and that would just help put the whole puzzle together.”


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More than 100 trees were toppled on this Mines Road property, with the majority of the damage occurring behind this garage.
More than 100 trees were toppled on this Mines Road property, with the majority of the damage occurring behind this garage.

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