'It's not real': Some left homeless by Ottawa-area tornadoes ponder next steps
All levels of government are joining forces to help with restoration efforts Sunday morning, two days after a pair of tornadoes ravaged Ottawa and the Gatineau, Que., area, leaving tens of thousands without power.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Ontario Premier Doug Ford will visit Ottawa this afternoon to tour the damage. The province has also committed to launching a disaster recovery program for families and businesses trying to get back on their feet.
"There's been great co-operation," Watson told CBC Radio's Fresh Air Sunday. But he said the damage to homes and hydro poles was extensive and it would take several days to restore power.
"It's something I never witnessed … it's just really quite incredible the damage it did in a very short period of time."
Hydro Ottawa reported that 70,000 customers are still without power Sunday morning. Around 8,100 Hydro-Quebec customers in the Outaouais are still in the dark and a few thousand Hydro One customers in the Ottawa region are also still without power. Many of these households could be in the dark for days.
More than 200,000 people were without power when the tornadoes hit Friday.
"We've made tremendous headway in this effort," said Hydro Ottawa's Joseph Muglia. "This was a widespread storm … and wreaked a lot of havoc."
Environment Canada said Saturday there were two tornadoes to hit the area. The tornado that hit Dunrobin was likely an EF-3, meaning it had wind speeds of up to 265 km/h.
A second tornado was classified as an EF-2, with wind speeds of up 220 km/h, and it hit the neighbourhood of Arlington Woods in Ottawa.
An 'emotional roller-coaster'
Watson called the events an "emotional roller-coaster" for some communities in the Ottawa area, including Dunrobin, a rural community in Ottawa's west end that was severely hit.
Watson said that last night, community members listened intently as emergency services from the area read out the homes destroyed by the extreme weather event. Many residents were unable to go back to Dunrobin for safety reasons and were learning, for the first time, what happened to their residences.
Officials will escort many people to see their homes in Dunrobin for the first time Sunday afternoon since the tornado.
Resident Chantal Rocheleau is one of dozens of people waiting to see the extent of the damage. She left her home Friday night by climbing out of the rubble.
"I haven't been back since it hit, so I'm hoping we'll go back today," Rocheleau said. "It's like it's not real … where am I gonna stay and what am I gonna do? I don't know.
"The neighbourhood is devastated, I mean virtually every house is to the ground."
Relief efforts continue Sunday
Hundreds of homes in Ottawa are either partially damaged or completely destroyed, Watson said. These families are either living with relatives or at one of the two emergency shelters set up by the city.
Residents who are displaced can seek shelter at the West Carleton High School or at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex.
Those wishing to help can donate to the Canadian Red Cross, which is working with those in need of emergency assistance, the mayor said.
"Many of them are in shock and disbelief," he said. "They have lost everything."
The tornadoes also sent six people to local hospitals. The Ottawa Hospital said Sunday four people remain in the hospital, two are in critical condition and two are stable.
Others in neighbouring Gatineau, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, were also transported to hospital with injuries.
Around 300 traffic lights still do not work and hundreds of trees have been destroyed. Hydro crews from Vaughan, Ont., and Toronto are making their way to the city to support repair efforts, the mayor said.
Emergency crews are focusing on the most severely hit areas, including Dunrobin, Craig Henry, Arlington Woods, the Hunt Club-Riverside area and the Paul Anka-McCarthy area.