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23rd of October 2018

Travel



Devastating Tornado Knocks Out Power For More Than 145,000 In Ottawa Area

OTTAWA — Parts of Canada's national capital were still reeling Saturday after a powerful tornado carved paths of destruction through residential neighbourhoods — snapping huge trees, tossing cars and obliterating homes along its way.

The tornado inflicted heavy damage late Friday as it churned across pockets of Ottawa's west and south ends, as well as densely populated sections of the neighbouring Quebec city of Gatineau.

The storm's bite continued to be felt across a wide swath of the region many hours later, with more than 150,000 customers still without power Saturday afternoon. Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad compared the magnitude of the damage to the power grid to the debilitating ice storm of 1998.

The human toll was also significant. Authorities said dozens of people suffered injuries, however there were no reports of fatalities or of missing people.

The Ottawa Hospital tweeted that two people were in critical condition, one was in serious condition and two others were stable. Officials established shelters for those who couldn't return home and they said crisis counselling would be available.

On the north side of the Ottawa River, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said more than 700 of his citizens were impacted by the storm and about 100 people took refuge in a shelter Friday night at a local college. More than 215 buildings suffered damage or were destroyed in his city — affecting a total of 1,686 housing units, he added.

Total destruction

In areas lashed by the tornado, scenes of the havoc were everywhere. The winds tore the roofs from numerous large buildings, bounced large sections of metal bleachers across soccer fields, knocked over hydro poles and cracked thick trees like twigs.

"It looked like it was something from a movie scene or a war scene,'' Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told reporters Saturday recalling what he saw in the area of Dunrobin, where some 60 buildings were wiped out or partially destroyed.

"Literally, it looks like some bomb was dropped from the air.''

Fred Chartrand/CP Apartment buildings in the Ottawa region had roofs torn off and windows blown out after a tornado caused extensive damage and forced hundreds of families to evacuate their homes on Sept. 21, 2018.

Much of Dunrobin, a semi-rural community about 35 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa, remained cordoned off by police Saturday afternoon.

It was eerily quiet inside the police perimeter of one of Dunrobin's most-damaged neighbourhoods — and only a few trees were still standing. Personal items were strewn everywhere — a baby blanket, a life jacket, mattresses, lawn mowers, a fridge, a kitchen sink lying on the grass and even a love seat wrapped around a telephone pole.

A car, windows shattered, lay on its side in front of a house. Fluffy, pink insulation — sucked out of ravaged homes — covered the neighbourhood.

Looking at one house, the blue sky could be seen through an open door. Its roof had vanished.

Some houses had nothing left at all and lay flat on the ground, covering their vehicles.

It looked like it was something from a movie scene or a war sceneOttawa Mayor Jim Watson

Officials warned people not to re-enter their homes until they had been deemed safe as firefighters went door-to-door to determine whether structures were still sound. In Dunrobin, authorities said many buildings that had emerged from the tornado partially intact would likely have to be torn down.

Hundreds of thousands brace for multi-day power outages

Conrad informed people in the Ottawa area to brace for a multi-day power outage following what he described as a "cascading failure'' of hydro resources.

"Last night's storm was devastating to our electrical infrastructure, arguably as bad if not worse than the ice storm in 1998,'' Conrad told reporters.

More from HuffPost Canada:

He said there were 200 separate outages across the Hydro Ottawa network and 147,000 customers without power. Hydro Ottawa only serves some of the people left without power because of the tornado.

To put it into perspective, Conrad said the electrical load that comes into Ottawa on any given day this time of year is about 1,000 megawatts. The storm took away about 400 megawatts from the supply.

"That's what we're working with — that's why we are dark,'' he said, listing off communities around the western, southern and some central parts of Ottawa.

Party leaders pause Quebec election campaign to survey damage

Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a statement Saturday on the tornado.

"On behalf of the government of Ontario, I want to tell the people of Ottawa that my thoughts are with them as they work to recover from the tornado and storm that impacted the Ottawa area yesterday; especially to the people of Dunrobin who saw immense damage to their homes and community,'' said Ford, who also thanked first responders and hydro crews.

In Gatineau, leaders of major political parties took a pause from the province's ongoing election campaign to visit areas walloped by the tornado.

Justin Tang/THE CANADIAN PRESS Damage to a Dunrobin, Ont. neighbourhood west of Ottawa saw is seen on,Sept. 22, 2018. A violent tornado tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines.

Setting aside their political differences, Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard and Parti Quebecois Leader Jean-Francois Lisee visited one of the most devastated parts of Gatineau together. Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault and Manon Masse, a co-spokesperson for Quebec solidaire, were scheduled to arrive in the area later Saturday.

Environment Canada confirmed Saturday that indeed a tornado struck the capital region. Meterologist Simon Legault said there was evidence of powerful winds between 180 and 220 kilometres per hour, which would correspond with an EF2 category tornado.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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