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The Suburbanite
  • Jim Hillibish: Oh, that lazy, hazy, crazy Canton weather

  • CantonRep.com/weather: The fast-approaching summer season brings a flood of clichés about our weather, you know, “If you don’t like it, wait a few minutes,” and “Everybody complains about it, but nobody does anything about it.”

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  • The fast-approaching summer season brings a flood of clichés about our weather, you know, “If you don’t like it, wait a few minutes,” and “Everybody complains about it, but nobody does anything about it.”
    As weather goes, our area is blessed or cursed with craziness. Forecasts often are problematic here. Then the giant high pressure areas creep across our deep-blue skies in early September, and we wonder why we were fussing.
    Here’s a look at the five strangest things about our weather:
    1. THE CANTON SLOT
    Who knows why? A quirk or a destiny? Canton often is the dividing area for high and low pressure in Ohio. This creates a “dry slot” where we have storms north and south of us and dry, calm weather overhead. It happened recently with a large rain shield sweeping 10 miles south of us and heavy rain cruising off Lake Erie a few miles to the north. We got nary a drop from both systems.
    The slot is very apparent on weather radar. You can watch as storms from the west split up around Massillon and head north and south of Canton.
    There’s plenty of talk about this in weather circles. One thread blames the Terminal Moraine that ranges just south of town. Although they don’t call it by name, when you hear “the Route 30 corridor” in weather forecasts, that’s most often the Canton slot. Some say it protects us, but lawn tenders would like a little more rain, thank you.
    2. THE LAKE THING
    It’s a constant battle over our heads between Lake Erie and southwestern weather systems. Erie can be a key to our weather. Then again, it fails us, and the Southwest wins the war with heavy storms.
    The lake’s power most often is felt in winter as major storms surge southward from Canada, gather moisture over the open water and dump it as far south as Canton. This lake-effect snow often is large flakes of heavy, wet snow that fall in sudden, white-out squalls. Often with these storms, the northern part of the city gets more snow than the southern part. In the summer, our concern shifts to the big storms from the southwest.
    3. ARE WE IN TORNADO ALLEY?
    Tornado warning sirens are not unusual here in spring and summer, but actual touchdowns are rare, unlike in Indiana and Illinois, which share about 80 tornados a year. Ohio averages but 19 a year, and most are wimps. Kansas is true Tornado Alley territory averaging 96 twisters a year.
    Canton is rated B-minus for tornado damage by the insurance industry, a good score for the Midwest. Most of our area’s twisters have been less damaging F0s and F1s. The area’s last F5 was late in the season, Oct. 21, 1985. Twelve people died. An F4 on April 11, 1965, holds the fatality record at 18.
    Page 2 of 2 - Our area’s worst tornado on record actually was two storms in a May 1825 outbreak. They were 30 miles apart but both in Stark County and destroyed all buildings in their path. An apple orchard was stripped of its trees, which were found on a farm nine miles away.
    4. “HELP! THE PARK’S FLOODING!”
    Well, it’s supposed to. If it didn’t flood, we’d all be up the creek.
    Most municipal parks are designed for flood control, not Sunday picnics. Canton’s main park system is in a ravine running north and south, the lowest point in the city. All storm sewers in the northwest quadrant drain into it.
    In a heavy downpour, when the water surge hits the parks, streams are designed to flood. If there were no flood there, it would be in our neighborhoods. That makes a flooded park a very good sign.
    5. “CANTON IS FLOOD-FREE”
    Not quite. A freak storm the night of July 28, 2003, forced more than 1,000 residents from their homes and knocked out power to thousands for days.
    Barbara Ruscitti awoke to see her dresser floating past. “When I put my feet over the side of the bed, they were in water,” she said. “I was just stunned. I started yelling and screaming and crying.”
    The flooding caused more than $1 million damage. Most victims lacked flood insurance because, as one oldster told a reporter, “It never floods around here.”
    Then he got into the firefighters’ rescue boat, and they rowed him to the new shore.
    What’s your craziest weather story? Email writer Jim Hillibish at
    jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com