Tornado hits Ottawa suburb in ‘potent storm system,’ over 100 homes damaged

Tornado hits Ottawa suburb in ‘potent storm system,’ over 100 homes damaged

A tornado touched down in Ottawa’s west end on Thursday afternoon.

David Sills, executive director of the Northern Tornadoes Project, confirmed that a tornado hit in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven, roughly 25 kilometres south of the city’s downtown and Parliament Hill.

Kim Ayotte, general manager of emergency and protective services for the City of Ottawa, told a media briefing early Thursday evening that about 125 homes in the area sustained damage. About 1,600 homes were without power, officials added, with some posing a risk of gas leaks due to the destruction.

“The damage varies from roofs being ripped off the homes, the shingles and the sheeting, down to broken windows and trees being downed and various other damage to structures,” he said.

“It’s a variety of damage, from small damage to quite substantial damage at this time.”

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As of Thursday evening, only one resident of the area had sustained minor injuries to their foot from broken glass, Ayotte confirmed.

Click to play video: 'Possible tornado swirls in Ottawa suburb: video'

Possible tornado swirls in Ottawa suburb: video

The Northern Tornadoes Project noted the possibility of “other tornadoes” that may have occurred during this “potent storm system.” While no other tornadoes were confirmed in the Ottawa area Thursday, a tornado touched down north of Montreal hours later amid a severe storm system that knocked out power to thousands of homes in southern Quebec.

The tornado in Ottawa came just minutes after a tornado watch was upgraded to a warning. The warning was issued at 12:49 p.m. and Ottawa police tweeted at 12:55 p.m. they had received reports of a tornado in the Barrhaven area.

“We are aware of a Tornado in Barrhaven and surrounding areas. Officers are responding as needed. If driving please pull-over safely when emergency vehicles are passing. Residents: please seek shelter. Updates will follow,” Ottawa police said in the tweet.

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Environment Canada briefly reinstated a tornado warning just before 3 p.m. before downgrading it once again to a watch about 20 minutes later. A severe thunderstorm warning is also in place for the region.

After the tornado touched down, Ottawa police said officers, along with Ottawa firefighters and paramedics, would be remaining on scene to assess for damage, and to help affected residents.

Images from the scene in Barrhaven show downed trees and damaged roofs.

Damaged telephone poles following a tornado in Ottawa suburb Barrhaven. (David Baxter/Motorcycle accident toronto today).

David Baxter/Motorcycle accident toronto today

Roofs damaged in during Ottawa tornado. (David Baxter/Motorcycle accident toronto today).

David Baxter/Motorcycle accident toronto today

The tornado was a rude awakening for resident Mohammad Omar, who was taking a lunch hour nap when the storm hit.

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“Everything started to shake” inside his house, he told Motorcycle accident toronto today.

“We saw a huge cloud and I wasn’t sure what it was. And I livestreamed to my friend and we started seeing the floating debris and swirls.”

Omar’s home wasn’t damaged but the windshield of his vehicle was broken.

“But as long as everyone’s okay (and) no one’s hurt — that’s the most important part,” he said.

Ottawa police said the impact from the tornado created “a large footprint” and warned of continued road closures due to downed trees and electrical wires. Residents from outside Barrhaven should avoid the area entirely, they added.

Police say a family reunification centre has been established at the Minto Recreation Complex, at 3500 Cambrian Rd. in Barrhaven.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, who called into the media briefing from the Minto facility, said the city has received offers of assistance from both the Ontario and federal governments. He expressed condolences to the families impacted by the tornado and thanked first responders for assisting residents.

Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said on Twitter his department was monitoring the tornadoes and storm systems in Ontario and Quebec, but did not say if any federal resources had been deployed to the affected areas.

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—With files from Global’s David Baxter

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