By Charlie Senack
At least 125 homes in Barrhaven are damaged after a tornado ripped through the community at around 1:00 p.m. July 13.
Residents received tornado warnings on their phones about 10 minutes after the storm hit. Funnel clouds were seen forming over Fallowfield near Greenbank at the same time.
After the funnel clouds made landfall, the warning was upgraded to a watch which meant danger was imminent. Videos posted to social media show the clouds spinning in circles as pieces of roofing and other housing material was thrown through the air.
The damage was widespread with around a dozen homes on Exeter Dr between Wessex Rd and Jockvale Rd being impacted. A carport collapsed, fallen trees blocked sidewalks, and pieces of siding and roofing materials were seen dangling from houses. A car nearby had its front smashed in after debris fell on it.
In Half Moon Bay, houses on Umbra Place near Cambrian had parts of their roofs blown off by the power of the wind. On nearby Waterclours Way, windows were smashed in, a screen door was completely ripped off of its frame, and curtains were seen hanging out of exposed homes.
Michael Lapot, who lives on Bellatrix Walk, said he ignored the first tornado alert when it went off on his phone.
“I was in my office and I started seeing clouds slowly moving in circles,” he said. “Then it picked up, there was styrofoam flying around and that’s when we headed for the basement, but it was over in 20 seconds.”
Lapot returned upstairs to find his backyard fence down and debris on top of his car. His neighbors’ attached home had a gaping hole in its roof.
Insurance will cover most of Lapot’s damages, but he will need to pay a $1,000 deductible — $500 each for his home and vehicle.
“My first thought was this can’t be real,” the Half Moon Bay resident said about two hours after the storm passed through. “Everyone is in shock of how much damage happened and how many shingles and nails are everywhere. It’s pretty bad what happened in such a short timeframe.”
Down the road on Umbra Place, Quincy Choi also did not pay much attention to the alerts that were coming in. He started to worry after seeing the sky turn a dark shade he’d never experienced before.
“It looked like night. Within 10 minutes we didn’t recognize the sky,” he said. “It happened before my eyes. I saw all the debris flowing down the street. I could have never imagined this would happen. It was big, heavy construction material which was flying over.”
Choi said two windows in his bedroom were smashed in alongside the window of his garage. His car also received damage from falling debris.
“Someone in my house tried to open the door and couldn’t because of the pressure. It could have caused more damage,” he said.
His neighbors were not as lucky. With another tornado warning issued shortly after, construction crews worked hard to board up the holes for fear of further water damage.
Neighbours came together to help each other clean up the mess, creating piles of fencing, siding, installation, and other materials that were thrown by the wind all over. Fire crews were out doing door-to-door visits to ensure everyone was safe and that there were no gas leaks. E Bridge said gas to about 100 homes was shut off as a safety precaution.
“Over 50 police officers responded to the scene and continue to assist Ottawa Fire Services who is going door-to-door to check on members of the public and to assess damage,” said Steve Bell from the Ottawa Police said that afternoon.
At the Minto Recreation Complex, a family reunification center was opened for Barrhaven residents who were impacted by the damage. At least five families used the services offered, according to Kim Ayotte general manager of emergency and protective services for the City of Ottawa.
The storm, which had a “large footprint” resulted in only one minor injury, said Ottawa Paramedics, and power was out for about 1,600 residents due to a fallen pole on Cambrian. Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said he felt many residents were breathing a sigh of relief. “It could have been much worse,” he added.
No cost estimate is known at this time. Ayotte said it was not as widespread and severe as previous storms such as the Derecho in 2022 or the previous tornadoes in 2018.
“City staff will continue to be on-site to provide property assessments and support those residents whose homes sustained damage,” Ayotte said. “I would also like to add that emergency social services will be available in the coming days at the support centre for all residents who require assistance.”
Environment Canada said exact details of the tornado were not immediately known. Wind speed and the tornadoes rating would be determined once their experts were able to survey the damage.