by SUSAN MANN
Ontario’s crops are largely unscathed after a mammoth storm packing 90-kilometre-an-hour winds along with rain struck southern, central and parts of northern Ontario Monday night and early this morning.
Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips says the storm had “huge tentacles” and even brought eight hours of freezing rain and snow to the Timmins area of northern Ontario. “It’s caused quite a messy situation there.”
In addition, Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Mark Wales says the storm “is going to bring harvest to a grinding halt for quite while. It’s wet out there.”
Some parts of Ontario have had steady rain since Friday and “for the most part land is too wet to go on,” he says.
Monday night’s storm is the same one that began in the Caribbean as hurricane Sandy, causing widespread destruction there before moving north along the eastern seaboard of the United States wreaking havoc throughout coastal and some inland areas and in New York City. By the time the storm struck Ontario, it had been downgraded to a post tropical depression that merged with an existing low located over the Great Lakes, Phillips says. Still the storm downed trees, power lines and poles, leaving more than 90,000 Hydro One customers without power.
The storm affected a huge area of North America, Phillips says, noting it stretched over 1,600 kilometres, knocking down trees in Halifax as well as causing high water levels in Chicago, freezing rain in Timmins and heavy damage in Georgia. The storm “was a half a continent wide,” he says.
Tiziana Baccega Rosa, Hydro One spokesperson, says their customers without power are located across Ontario from Owen Sound and Bracebridge then south, and across southern, eastern and central Ontario. Hydro One crews began assessing the situation and restoring power this morning. As of 3 p.m. today there were 36,881 customers without power.
Phillips says the 20 to 40 millimetre rainfall associated with the storm along with the wetter than normal weather during September and this month has helped to replenish drought stricken Ontario. But he doesn’t think the areas hit by drought have totally caught up yet.
Initially, Environment Canada was calling for 100 millimetres of rain to fall because of the storm. But in Ontario, the storm wasn’t really a rain event, he notes. Still, rains from the storm are continuing today and Wednesday. “Most of the heavy rains occurred in the United States,” Phillips says.
Phillips says parts of the storm were positive for farmers because they “would never turn down moisture given the fact that you needed to fill in the lakes, reservoirs, aquifers, groundwater and the wells. My sense is that it was just like a strong fall storm.”
Ontario agriculture ministry corn specialist Greg Stewart says 55 per cent of the crop across the province is already harvested. As for the amount left, “there is some corn that has taken a bit of a beating” but it’s not that critical. In some situations wind and rain has knocked corn cobs to the ground.
“That will be the nastiest part of it in terms of yield loss,” Stewart notes.
Virtually all of the corn that’s been negatively affected by the storm will be able to be harvested, he says.
Ontario agriculture ministry cereals specialist Peter Johnson says the storm caused some water to pond in wheat fields but at least 80 per cent of crop has already emerged and is much better able to handle the excess moisture. “If we had these ponds on wheat that wasn’t emerged it would be much harder on the crop and we’ve seen that in other” fall seasons, he says.
The wind didn’t affect the wheat at all, he says.
Johnson says a good portion of the province was affected by water ponding in fields “but the ponded areas in total ended up being fairly minimal.”
Susan Murray, Ontario agriculture ministry spokesperson, says the ministry is monitoring whether the storm caused damage in rural Ontario. “We’re waiting for calls to come in and we have staff out there, but we haven’t heard anything major yet.”
Wales says there has been some wind damage, but so far “we are not identifying anything huge yet” or devastation in any particular area. BF