STO­RIES OF SUR­VIVAL

Ot­tawa re­groups af­ter twisters

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Aedan Helmer in Ot­tawa

MUCH OF CITY STILL IN DARK­NESS AF­TER TWO TWISTERS TEAR APART HOMES, RIP UP TREES

Peo­ple were pick­ing up the pieces Sun­day along the path taken by two dev­as­tat­ing tor­na­does that ripped homes to shreds, downed power lines and left thou­sands in black­out dark­ness across this re­gion.

City of­fi­cials, mean­while, were plead­ing with peo­ple to stay home as the cleanup con­tin­ues, while all schools in the Catholic and public boards were can­celled Mon­day.

“With the (Mon­day) rush hour com­ing and more than 400 traf­fic sig­nals with­out power, it could cause ma­jor traf­fic dis­rup­tions, so we are ask­ing peo­ple, if they can, please stay home,” said An­thony Di Monte, Ot­tawa’s gen­eral man­ager of emer­gency and pro­tec­tive ser­vices, who called for “pa­tience and cour­tesy” from those who do ven­ture out on the roads in the af­ter­math of the his­toric storm.

Amid the wreck­age and re­cov­ery ef­forts, har­row­ing sto­ries of sur­vival, and heart­warm­ing tales of good will, were emerg­ing.

Fam­i­lies had cow­ered in their base­ments and held their chil­dren close as the first twister touched down in Kin­burn, strik­ing a di­rect hit on Dun­robin just be­fore 5 p.m. Fri­day, the last day of sum­mer.

The tor­nado tore apart homes, up­rooted trees and flat­tened barns, mov­ing across the Ot­tawa River and through Gatineau Park be­fore wreak­ing more de­struc­tion in the Mont Bleu neigh­bour­hood of Gatineau. An­other pow­er­ful tor­nado blew through the re­gion about 90 min­utes later.

There were no fa­tal­i­ties and no re­ports of miss­ing peo­ple, though sev­eral were hos­pi­tal­ized with in­juries, in­clud­ing two ad­mit­ted to The Ot­tawa Hos­pi­tal in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. In Gatineau, 14 peo­ple were taken to hos­pi­tal.

With gale-force in­ten­sity — ranked as an E/F3 tor­nado on the zero to five En­hanced Fu­jita scale by En­vi­ron­ment Canada, with wind ve­loc­ity reach­ing up to 260 km/h — the tor­nado raged through the area, top­pling build­ings, rip­ping off roofs and smash­ing win­dows as streets were left lit­tered with glass, bricks, cin­der blocks and scat­tered lum­ber.

It was the first E/F3 tor­nado recorded in Septem­ber in Canada since a twister in the Ni­a­gara re­gion in 1898, En­vi­ron­ment Canada of­fi­cials said. The breadth of power out­ages quickly drew com­par­isons to the 1988 ice storm, mean­while.

“It was a big tor­nado and very in­tense,” said me­te­o­rol­o­gist Peter Kim­bell, who vis­ited the dev­as­tated area.

The mas­sive twister cut a swath one kilo­me­tre wide, trav­el­ling at least 40 kilo­me­tres be­fore it fi­nally lifted east of Au­toroute 5 in Gatineau.

Many saw the storm’s vi­o­lence from up close as nu­mer­ous videos emerged on so­cial me­dia show­ing a black sky swirling with shin­gles, sid­ing and other de­bris.

As many as 600 peo­ple were dis­placed from their homes in Gatineau, with fam­i­lies ar­riv­ing by the bus­load to dis­as­ter cen­tres, in­clud­ing the CEGEP de l’Ou­taouais on Cite-desJe­unes in one of the ar­eas hard­est hit by the storm. Some fam­i­lies were told it could be days be­fore they could re­turn to their homes.

More than 800 peo­ple in West­ern Que­bec had al­ready regis­tered for as­sis­tance re­lated to the storm.

Que­bec Premier Philippe Couil­lard sur­veyed the dam­age in a tour of the re­gion Sat­ur­day, while Premier Doug Ford vis­ited the On­tario side Sun­day. Both of­fered pro­vin­cial as­sis­tance, while Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau spoke with Ot­tawa Mayor Jim Wat­son and Gatineau Mayor Maxime Ped­neaud-Jobin to of­fer the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s as­sis­tance to those in need.

Aid agen­cies worked tire­lessly through the week­end on both sides of the river, where sev­eral fam­i­lies hit by the tor­nado said they were still reel­ing from the his­toric flood­ing that had hit some of the same ar­eas just over a year ago.

The sec­ond tor­nado touched down near High­way 416 and tracked east­ward across the Ar­ling­ton Woods, Green­bank and Craig Henry neigh­bour­hoods, leav­ing downed poles and live wires in its wake as winds de­mol­ished a key Hy­dro One trans­mis­sion sta­tion on Merivale Road.

That tor­nado was likely a “high E/F2” with wind speeds of 220-230 km/h, Kim­bell said.

Wat­son said at a Sun­day brief­ing that 51 homes in Ot­tawa were “dec­i­mated” or left in need of mas­sive struc­tural re­pair.

Hy­dro crews faced a daunt­ing task. The Merivale sta­tion suf­fered a di­rect hit, top­pling tow­ers and snap­ping poles and power lines, plung­ing thou­sands of homes into dark­ness in the west and south ends of the city.

With the elec­tri­cal grid grad­u­ally re­stored through­out the week­end, long lines of traf­fic formed around gas sta­tions as frus­tra­tions boiled over.

Sun­day be­gan with about 80,000 homes still with­out power, and of­fi­cials with Hy­dro Ot­tawa and Hy­dro One warned it could be sev- eral days be­fore all the lights came back on.

Of­fi­cials pleaded with those whose power had been re­stored to con­serve en­ergy while crews di­verted elec­tric­ity to other pock­ets of the city. As of Sun­day af­ter­noon, Ne­pean and Lin­coln Heights, in the west­ern half of the city, re­mained the largest ar­eas in the city af­fected by the black­out.

Res­i­dents in some of the hard­est-hit ar­eas warned against “gawk­ers” tour­ing the streets to snap pho­tos or to take in the dam­age first­hand. City of­fi­cials echoed that con­cern and asked peo­ple to stay away.

The In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada said it ex­pects dam­age claims to be val­ued in the tens of mil­lions.

“I’ve been do­ing dam­age sur­veys for roughly 20 years and this was one of the more com­pli­cated (weather) events, with mul­ti­ple strong tor­na­does and pock­ets of straight-line wind dam­age/ down­bursts,” said David Sills, an En­vi­ron­ment Canada se­vere weather spe­cial­ist and one of Canada’s lead­ing ex­perts on tor­na­does.

“We’re still find­ing new tracks of dam­age, so the work is not over yet,” Sills said.

DUN­ROBIN WILL BOUNCE BACK AND IT WILL BE RE­BUILT AND WE’LL BE STRONGER FOR IT. THERE’S A LOT OF HEARTACHE, BUT IT’S EX­PRESSED IN HOPE. — GREG PATACAIRK

FRED CHAR­TRAND / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A man and woman em­brace as they sur­vey dam­age to a home in Gatineau, Que., Sun­day af­ter two tor­na­does swept through the area. Hun­dreds of fam­i­lies were forced to evac­u­ate.

JEAN LEVAC / POST­MEDIA NEWS

Brian Low­den takes a mo­ment to col­lect him­self while sur­vey­ing the wreck­age of his home on Sun­day in Dun­robin, Ont., just out­side Ot­tawa.

WAYNE CUD­DING­TON / POST­MEDIA NEWS

Vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing Peg­gis Slavin, came to help clear de­bris from Tracey Gra­ham’s Ot­tawa home.

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