Ottawa residents face power outages, school closures after twin tornadoes
Published Sunday, September 23, 2018 8:16AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 23, 2018 5:32PM EDT
Residents of the Ottawa region are facing widespread power outages and school closures after two tornadoes struck on Friday.
The twin twisters obliterated dozens of homes, tossing vehicles around, snapping huge trees and injuring several people, at least two of whom were admitted to hospital in critical condition.
Environment Canada says one powerful EF-3 category twister ripped through Dunrobin, Ont., just west of Ottawa, before moving on to devastate the densely populated area of Gatineau, Que. At nearly exactly the same time, a slightly less powerful twister, touched down in the south Ottawa neighbourhood of Arlington Woods.
No fatalities have been reported, which a number of officials have marvelled at given the vast amount of property damage the twisters caused. Approximately 60 buildings were wiped out or partially destroyed in Dunrobin, Ont., while in Gatineau more than 215 buildings were damaged or destroyed.
At one point around 174,000 hydro customers were blacked out in the City of Ottawa. As of Sunday afternoon that number had fallen to about 70,000, according to Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad.
Conrad told reporters that the Merivale power station, which supplies large swaths of the region, had been only partially brought back online.
“There will be people who don’t have power tomorrow morning. There will be people who don’t have power this week,” Conrad said.
Anthony Di Monte, general manager of the City of Ottawa’s Emergency and Protective Service, said that more than 400 traffic lights continue to be out. He said the city is asking people to avoid going to work on Monday to reduce traffic congestion.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Sunday that the devastation looks like a “war scene,” with “hydro poles that snapped like twigs, cars that were smashed and tossed all around.”
“The real work for those families that have lost everything will be many, many months,” Watson added. “That’s why I’m pleased the premier has committed to being with us for the long run.”
The Ontario government announced Saturday that it was activating the province's Disaster Recovery Assistance program in affected areas. Under the program, individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have experienced property damage or loss as a result of the storm may be eligible to receive help with emergency and recovery expenses.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford visited the affected area on Sunday, where he thanked first responders and local politicians for their well-organized response.
“It’s heartbreaking to say the least,” Ford told reporters Sunday afternoon. “We’re here to reassure everyone in the region that’s been affected that we’ll spare no expense, we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we get people back on their feet.”
Community banding together
The kindness of strangers has been playing a significant role in the aftermath of Friday's tornado. A lot of people have been stepping up to help storm victims with a hot meal, an outlet to charge their phone or a shower.
Shawna Tregunna tweeted a photo of pancakes saying she was cooking up hot meals all day. She also offered to deliver the vast buffet she prepared, and was kept busy doing so from Friday afternoon until late Saturday night.
Tregunna said she had plenty of help in her Good Samaritan efforts with "tons of volunteers, lots of donation offers, lots of offers to do delivery."
Another Ottawa resident, Erin Blaskie, had the same charitable idea, tweeting out a photo of a pot of chili saying anyone without a hot meal could message her for her address, while In Kanata North, Karen Woods opened up her home to people who needed a shower or their batteries recharged.
Another person who’s noticed the generosity of the community is Todd Nicholson, who lives in the hardest hit area of Dunrobin. He told CTV News channel that both his family and his brother’s family are homeless after their homes were destroyed.
“The storm basically took our home and everything in it… it’s something I’ve never witnessed living here for years,” the former Paralympian said.
“It’s tough but at the same time the community has really rallied together. This is a community that has come together to create some sort of normalcy.”
He went on to say that several sports groups in the city plan to return the registration and equipment fees for children enrolled in hockey programs. On Saturday, the Ottawa Senators Foundation launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for the victims of the tornado and has pledged to match the first $25,000 given through the page.
"This is our home, and being part of a community coming together in times of need. The Ottawa Senators hockey club and their fans at home,” the club wrote on the page.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Saturday that he'd spoken with the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau to offer federal assistance.
The Quebec government announced it would give the Red Cross $1 million to help with relief efforts. On Saturday, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said, “we are concentrating on people, getting people back home as soon as possible, as safely as possible.”
With files from The Canadian Press