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Two people are dead and at least two others are critically injured after a powerful thunderstorm ripped through Ottawa Saturday afternoon.
The storm with wind gusts of up to 120 km/h blasted across the city, knocking down trees and power lines and damaging homes and other buildings.
Ottawa police said Sunday morning a 59-year-old man died after being struck by a falling tree on a golf course on Golf Club Way in Ottawa's west end. The investigation into the man's death continues.
Later Saturday, Gatineau police said a 51-year-old woman drowned after her boat capsized in the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers. Police were working to contact her family Saturday night.
Ottawa paramedic chief Pierre Poirier told reporters that two people were critically injured at golf courses and one person was seriously injured in a car crash.
“We reached a Level 0 during the event, but we are there no longer,” Poirier said, referring to a state when there are no immediately available ambulances.
Ottawa fire chief Paul Hutt said fire crews responded to 500 calls for downed trees, damaged buildings, fires, and downed power lines.
Mayor Jim Watson said the storm affected the entire city.
“We know the storm has touched every corner of our city,” he said. “Many residents are experiencing power outages. City staff have been deployed and are responding. I ask everyone to remain patient.”
As of late Saturday night, Hydro Ottawa reported more than 1,000 outages affecting 179,000 customers.
The city’s emergency operations centre has been activated to deal with the fallout from the storm.
Ottawa police say they are deploying additional officers to the most heavily affected parts of the city to help maintain public safety.
City staff say it could take several days to clean up all of the damage.
Kim Ayotte, the city’s general manager of emergency and protective services said this storm, while brief, had a massive impact.
“The sheer area that’s been affected is like nothing I’ve seen in my memory,” he said. “We expect cleanup from the storm to take several days.”
Joseph Muglia, director of system operations and grid automation for Hydro Ottawa echoed Ayotte’s comments.
“We haven’t had a hit like this since the tornadoes,” he said. “This is different because this is so widespread across the city.”
Hydro Ottawa’s outage map shows scattered outages across Ottawa. Muglia said about half of Hydro Ottawa’s customer base has been affected.
“Not only do we have local distribution issues, we’ve got issues with the provincial supplier, a loss of supply to city,” he said.
Hydro One is also reporting tens of thousands of customers without power across eastern Ontario.
Across the river, Hydro Quebec reported 121,000 customers without power in the Outaouais region.
“More than likely, this will be a multi-day event,” Muglia said. “We’re restoring where possible but that will depend on the provincial supplier and replacing downed poles. This is a challenging event.”
Muglia said crews would be working through the night, though most efforts would be focused during daylight hours when it’s safer.
The storm ripped trees out by the roots as it blew across the city. A wind gust of 120 km/h was recorded at the Ottawa Airport at 3:30 p.m. The 4 p.m. weather update included a gust of 113 km/h. Ottawa police had asked residents to shelter in place as the storm hit.
Ottawa police said Saturday evening that a barn in the west end was destroyed, and many people had been trapped in vehicles due to live wires on roads throughout the city, including 40 drivers on Woodroffe Avenue. Police responded to gas leaks on St. Joseph Boulevard and Presland Road. Downed power lines across Highway 174 near Trim Road forced police to close the eastbound lanes to traffic.
One tree fell on a person at a golf course, Poirier said, adding this person was one of the two people who were critically injured.
Trees also fell on cars and buildings throughout the region.
Watson said he had heard from many city councillors that residents were out helping each other after the storm.
“I appreciate the good neighbour approach,” he said.
Ayotte also encouraged residents to check in on neighbours and loved ones if it was safe to do so.
Due to outages, the O-Train Line 1 LRT was offline. Transit customers took R1 buses instead. General manager of transit services Renée Amilcar told reporters the O-Train draws on electricity from various sources across the city. By Sunday morning, the O-Train was fully operational again.
The severe thunderstorm warning for Ottawa ended at around 4:40 p.m. and a severe thunderstorm watch ended by 4:50 p.m.
Weather radar showed that a storm with very heavy rain moved northeast from Michigan and into southern Ontario late Saturday morning, passing through London, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Toronto, hitting Ottawa at around 3:30 p.m. By 4:30 p.m., the strongest part of the storm had moved northeast into Quebec.
The storm claimed at least eight lives across Ontario, including one in the Madawaska area and two in Ottawa.
After the storm moved out of the region, the temperature dropped 12 degrees from 30 C to 18 C, before ticking back up a couple of degrees late in the afternoon.
The weather forecast for Ottawa includes clouds overnight, bringing a chance of showers and a risk of a thunderstorm with a low of 14 C.
Sunday’s outlook is cloudy with a high of 18 C and a chance of showers in the afternoon.
The forecast for Victoria Day Monday is partly sunny with a high of 18 C.
- with files from Colton Praill, CTV News Ottawa