Veteran storm chaser captures video of another N.S. tornado
NEAR ANTRIM, N.S. -- Chris Hill spent several decades chasing storms south of the border, including massive tornadoes in the notorious “Tornado Alley.”
Now, Hill has captured Nova Scotia’s second confirmed tornado in a month on video, this time in the Musquodoboit Valley.
It all started when he began chasing a storm system July 22.
“I noticed that at 300 millibars, the upper jet was really strong,” he explains. “Like it had been on previous days where I had seen mesocyclones. And so I knew the jet was strong.”
It’s clear Hill knows his storms – a mesocyclone is a common precursor to tornados, in which a vortex of air begins to rapidly rotate within a thunderstorm.
“I thought, nice surface warming temperatures, a lot of moist dew point…and then just a screamin’ jet that’s negatively tilted,” he adds.
“And I said, the angle of flow is (the) perfect angle for convection to put off a twisting storm, which it did.”
That’s how Hill, with his wife and his mother-in-law in the van with him, ended up following the dark, churning clouds in the area to Antrim Road.
There, he found himself right in front of a twister.
“I did not expect to come right around the corner and to suddenly see that tornado right in front of us.”
In the video, Hill quickly brings the vehicle to a halt, as the cone of rotating cloud passes through the woods and across the gravel road in front of them.
“Don’t move,” Hill says in the video, which lasts 51 seconds before the rotation disappears from view.
“I think what it was doing, it was hopscotching, where it would spin up, touch down for a bit, kind of go up and re-form, and then touch down,” he says.
To confirm what Hill saw, CTV News sent the video and photos he took to the experts at the Northern Tornadoes Project at Western University, which is tracking tornado activity in Canada.
The project’s executive director, atmospheric scientist David Sills, says the video does indeed show a twister.
“Definitely a tornado associated with what looks like a compact supercell thunderstorm,” says Sills in a Zoom interview from London, Ontario.
Sills says the tornado was likely weak, as it didn’t seem to do significant damage in the area.
Hill did look for signs of destruction near the site afterward but couldn’t find any close to the road.
“It probably did not do a lot of damage,” says Sills. “It was probably a lot more bark than bite in this case.”
Even so, it’s not what Hill expected to find after moving to Nova Scotia from the U.S. five years ago.
“I thought it would be really rare, like I would go out a dozen times in a year, maybe see one or two mesocyclones,” he says. “Let alone filming one at close range.”
It's not the province’s first tornado this year
Hill also chased a significant one on June 30 – the same one that leveled a barn in Stewiacke.
That event was confirmed as a tornado by the Northern Tornadoes Project and Environment Canada days later.
That type of event is the reason why the Northern Tornadoes Project is tracking tornado activity across the country.
“It’s been a long time since Nova Scotia has seen a tornado, let alone two tornadoes,” says Sills. “It’s just that pattern that we’re in, that the Eastern part of Canada is getting a lot of storm activity.”
For Chris Hill, that means likely more storms to chase ahead.