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Thunderstorm and tornado warnings grip Ontario as storm tracks eastward

Lightning over Lake Ontario photographed from Cherry Beach in Toronto.

Roger Hallett/The Globe and Mail

A round of massive thunderstorms tore through much of southern Ontario on Friday, leading to numerous tornado warnings and reports of funnel clouds.

Environment Canada issued tornado warnings for regions including cottage country as heavy winds snapped trees and sent residents running for shelter from lashing rain.

The weather service said there were unconfirmed reports of funnel clouds near Barrie and Bradford, with but tornado warnings were lifted later Friday afternoon.

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A total of 195-thousand Hydro One customers had their power knocked out, with more than 35,000 left in the dark in the Midland-Barrie-Orillia area alone. As of late Friday Hydro One said power had been restored to nearly 40-thousand customers and crews were working through the night to get electricity service to the rest.

Environment Canada Meteorologist Peter Kimbell says there are no confirmed reports of any tornadoes as the eastward storm rolled throughout the province in several waves.

Kimbell says some of the worst-hit areas include Pembroke and Petawawa on the Ottawa River, and Callander outside North Bay.

He said Environment Canada teams were planning to head to those areas once the storms died down to assess damage.

Tornado warnings were also issued for the Ottawa area, the Niagara Region, Hamilton, the Brantford area and the Greater Toronto Area. All the warnings were later lifted though severe thunderstorm warnings and watches remained in place for virtually all of southern Ontario.

Residents flooded Twitter with photos of toppled trees and damaged buildings, with raindrops splattering camera lenses.

Provincial police Staff Sgt. Sharron Brown says Orillia and the surrounding area have been slammed with emergency calls.

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"We've heard of trees down on top of a vehicle, trees down across roadways blocking traffic," she said.

"Right now the priority is to respond to the calls for service," she said.

Kimbell says the fierce storms are causing major damage to residential areas, even if they don't technically reach tornado status.

"It really is immaterial in one sense whether it was caused by a tornado or not."

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