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At least one 'damaging tornado' touches down in Ottawa


At least one tornado touched down in the south Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven, damaging homes and knocking down tree branches and backyard fences.

An estimated 125 homes in the area were damaged as the severe weather moved through the region with heavy rain and strong winds on Thursday afternoon. Ottawa police say a tornado touched down in the Half Moon Bay area of Barrhaven at approximately 12:45 p.m. 

"I looked out the window and into my backyard, and it looked almost like it was snowing which I found very bizarre.  I later realized it was actually the insulation from somebody's roof," Tomislav Mitar, Barrhaven resident, told CTV News Channel.

"The next thing I saw was metal patio furniture going at a tremendous amount of speed, flying across and smashing into my neighbour's fence.

"It lasted 30 to 45 seconds and then continued down its path."

Emergency officials report only one minor injury because of the storm.

"The damage varies from roofs being ripped off of the homes, the shingles and the sheathing, down to broken windows and trees being down and various other damage to structures," Kim Ayotte, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services, said.

"At this time, we have crews cleaning up roads."

City officials released a list of the damaged properties in Barrhaven following the storm:

  • Area 1: Umbra Place/Watercolours Way – 50 houses
  • Area 2: Perseus Way/Proxima Terrace – 35 houses
  • Area 3: Jockvale Road/Exeter Drive – 30-40 houses

Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for Ottawa at approximately 12:45 p.m., shortly before witnesses reported the tornado touched down in Barrhaven. A second tornado warning was issued at 2:45 p.m., but was lifted a short time later.

"We heard the roar and we tore down to the basement," Brian Clark said. "On the way down, I saw that tree come in through the front window." 

Clark says a neighbour's trampoline was tossed into their backyard.

Ottawa police and fire assess damage in Barrhaven after at least one tornado touched down on Thursday. Emergency crews are going door to door in the area of Aphelion Court and Metak Way. (Peter Szperling/CTV News Ottawa)

Photos on social media showed damage on several streets in the suburb in Ottawa's south end, with debris spread across roads, sidewalks and yards. Shingles were tossed off houses and basketball nets were knocked down.

"It was a nightmare, because things started moving," Deepak Singh said while assessing the damage to his rental property in Half Moon Bay. "The kids were in the house and then the roof started flowing away."

"I haven't experienced a tornado before, and it lasted for 20 to 30 seconds," Zoya Tariq said. "Our bikes are gone, our basketball net is gone, our chairs. Everything was gone and there was glass everywhere."

Of the 125 homes with damage in Barrhaven, approximately 50 of the homes are in the area of Umbra Place, near Cambrian Road.

Environment Canada confirms one tornado touched down in Ottawa.  Environment Canada said in a statement Thursday evening that the damage reported is in the western portions of Barrhaven.

"This tornado damaged many houses and buildings in its path. Damage reported included roof damage, broken windows, power and utility outages as well as damage to trees," the weather agency said.

"A rating will be assigned as more information is received."

David Sills of Western University's Northern Tornadoes Project tells CTV News Ottawa at least one damaging tornado touched down in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon, "maybe more."  Investigators with the Western University Northern Tornadoes Project will be travelling from London to Ottawa Thursday afternoon to assess the damage. 

"I was just standing there; I knew nothing before I heard a shatter of glass going everywhere," Helen Feltham said at her home in the Watercolours Way area. "It is devastating."

Tomislav Mitar shared photos of damage to his home in Barrhaven, calling it "ground zero of the tornado." (Twitter/EnjoytheTom)

Ottawa fire says firefighters were going door to door in the worst areas checking on residents and turning off the gas and hydro at several homes.

Some residents say there was no warning before the storm hit.

Byrnn Miraw and Stephanie Rheaume were out walking the dog when they saw a tornado.

"We looked to our left and through the field we saw a tornado; never seen it before in real life," Miraw said. "It looked like the movies; grey and black, things starting flying."

"You could see the tornado forming; it was for sure a spiral cone," Rheaume said. "A piece of shed flew and hit the house. It was that fast."

Miraw and Rheaume ran for shelter at the home of Madison Rowsell.

Barry Pepper was driving on Standherd Drive when he watched the funnel cloud form.

"It was an exciting few minutes," Pepper told Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

"The funnel kind of formed and came down, and it sucked up debris and it looked like trees."

Pepper says there was a lot of debris along Strandherd Drive and a tool shed from the parking lot of Home Depot was lying on the sidewalk.

"It was terrifying."

Trees have been damaged in the area of Exeter Drive and Tartan Drive in Barrhaven. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa)

Ottawa fire is leading the city's response to the tornado, with support from police and city services.

"This incident still has a large footprint and all city and service partners are working together,"Acting Police Chief Steve Bell said, adding there may be localized road closures to assist with the cleanup.

The city of Ottawa says staff are available to provide information on damage assessment and starting the insurance process.

"I want to assure you that the city of Ottawa is here to help and support everyone that's been affected," Wendy Stephanson, interim city manager, said.

"We have multiple departments across the city working very hard immediately after this storm."

City officials say there is no substantial damage to city infrastructure in the Barrhaven area following the storm. Ayotte said some traffic lights were damaged by the storm.

Residents are being asked to avoid travelling into Barrhaven as the cleanup continues.

As the cleanup begins, Helen Feltman was leaving her home in Half Moon Bay to stay with her family while repairs are completed.

"It is just things; it is OK. My mother just found out last week she beat cancer, so this is nothing," Laurie Gillespie said, after her mother's home was damaged by the storm.

Several homes have been damaged in the area of Exeter Drive and Tartan Drive in Barrhaven after at least one tornado touched down in Barrhaven. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa)

Cleaning up the storm

City of Ottawa staff and emergency services personnel are going door-to-door to assess the damage and speak to residents, according to Ayotte.

The reported damage ranged from roofs ripped off homes to broken windows and fences and trees being knocked down.

"Public Works teams have already been deployed to the area to begin assessing the damage," Ayotte said, adding staff will remain on site to assess the damage and cleanup.

"They have already begun clearing the roads and triaging the worst areas to be cleared in the coming days."

Ayotte says the damage is not as extensive as the May 2022 derecho that hit Ottawa and the series of tornadoes that hit Ottawa in 2019.

Community support centre

Ottawa police say a community support centre has been established at the Minto Recreation Complex, at 3500 Cambrian Road in Barrhaven.

It will be open until 11 p.m. on Thursday, and reopen from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday.

City of Ottawa Building Code Services staff will be available to provide information on damage assessment, starting the insurance process and general safety issues related to homes affected by the tornado. 

Social Services will also make resources available to those affected or displaced due to damage to their homes.

Federal, Ontario governments offer support

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe says officials from both the federal and Ontario governments contacted the city to offer support following the storm.

"The Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, reached out to me just a few minutes after the news broke about the tornado, offering help and assistance," Sutcliffe said. "The other levels of government are ready to assist as necessary."

Sutcliffe says the premier has been quick to reach out to offer help and support in Ottawa.

Premier Ford said on Twitter he spoke with Sutcliffe, "to offer any and all the support that Ottawa needs."

"Everyone please stay safe."

Hydro outages

Hydro Ottawa says power has been restored to most customers in Barrhaven following the storm.

At one point, more than 1,600 customers lost power in the Barrhaven area following the storm.

As of 5:50 p.m., there were 182 customers still without electricity.

The power outages come as approximately 400 employees remain on strike.

Hydro Ottawa says it has "contingency plans" in place, "including additional resources" to support restoration efforts.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Jeremie Charron, Leah Larocque, Peter Szperling and Natalie van Rooy. Top Stories

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