OTTAWA – Environment Canada has confirmed that the Ottawa area was hit by two tornadoes late Friday afternoon.
The national weather agency says a powerful EF-3 category twister with winds that reached 265 km/h ripped through the Ottawa neighbourhood Dunrobin, Ont., about 35 kilometres west of the downtown area, before moving on to devastate a densely populated area of Gatineau, Que.
The agency says that at almost the same time a second, slightly less powerful twister, touched down in the south Ottawa neighbourhood of Arlington Woods.
The twin tornadoes caused massive damage obliterating 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.
At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out, but as of early Sunday morning, the Hydro Ottawa and Hydro Quebec websites reported the number had been reduced to fewer than 80,000 in the Ottawa area and 8,300 in the Outaouais region, which encompasses Gatineau.
The Ontario government announced Saturday that it was activating the province’s Disaster Recovery Assistance program in affected areas, while the Quebec government announced it would give the Red Cross $1 million to help with relief efforts.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted Saturday day that he’d spoken with the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau to offer federal assistance.
I spoke to mayors @JimWatsonOttawa & @MPedneaudJobin of Gatineau today by phone to get an update on storm recovery, thank them for their leadership and offer any help we can to people in need. We’re with you.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 22, 2018
Kevin Lloyd, who lives around Gatineau says he was outside his home when the wind started to pick up.
“I am so glad my kids were not home,” Lloyd says. “My kids were all out doing stuff. I called my ex-wife to see if my kids were OK and then I heard the roof start ripping off and I thought this was it. I literally [crossed myself] and said ‘OK, I am ready.'”
He added he’s just happy the tornado missed his house and he was able to walk out unscathed.
— with files from CityNews Toronto