Tornado aftermath: Gatineau residents start to return home

Tornado aftermath: Gatineau residents start to return home
Gatineau tornado victims searching for new homes
Daniel Dorris was working on a construction site in Ottawa late Friday afternoon and hadn’t had a chance to check his phone for a while.

“My wife’s pregnant, so my mind went there,” Dorris, a stocky guy with a Mohawk haircut, said with his wife and six kids outside an emergency centre set up for storm victims at the CEGEP de Gatineau.

Gatineau's Mont0Bleu neighbourhood appeared to take the full force of the storm, which Environment Canada confirmed Saturday was a "high-end" EF-3 tornado — meaning wind speeds were as high as 265 km/h. Roofs were blown off several homes along Boulevard Cité-des-Jeunes.

When Dorris finally got in touch with Picard, he “couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

“I thought this was it”: Residents recount their stories from Fridays tornadoes

“She said she was terrified and just took all the kids down in the basement. When it finally sounded like it was calming down, 20 minutes maybe, she went slowly upstairs, saw the damage — trees down, poles down, a real mess — and went right back downstairs.”

Firefighters and police are inspecting damaged areas. Due to the clean-up, Boulevard Saint-Joseph is closed to all traffic between Boulevard Mont-Bleu and the Jean-Proulx roundabout.

Dorris had heard enough. He grabbed his tools and jumped in his pickup, turning on his four-way flashers as he stepped on the gas.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was in Gatineau on Saturday morning to survey the damage. He announced he would suspend campaign activities to address the aftermath of the tornado.

“I wasn’t stopping,” he said as he was jostled by two of his kids wearing Red Cross blankets like superhero capes.

Crews in Gatineau are beginning to clean up after a powerful tornado touched down there Friday, damaging dozens of buildings and knocking out power to tens of thousands.

Serge Cronier (L), Valérie Minville (R) helped clean up a friend's property that lost multiple tall Pine trees on Pink Rd in Aylmer after a tornado left parts of Ottawa and Gatineau devastated, September 22, 2018. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia 130048  Jean Levac/Postmedia News

Marco Larcher, with his chainsaw, helped clean up a friend's property that lost multiple tall Pine trees on Pink Rd in Aylmer after a tornado left parts of Ottawa and Gatineau devastated, September 22, 2018.  Jean Levac/Postmedia News

Marco Larcher, with his chainsaw, helped clean up a friend's property that lost multiple tall Pine trees on Pink Rd in Aylmer after a tornado left parts of Ottawa and Gatineau devastated, September 22, 2018.  Jean Levac/Postmedia News

Loutangou is staying in the emergency shelter set up by the municipality, but with a three-day limit she's not sure where her family will live long-term. 

The roof of an apartment building on Georges-Bilodeau St. is photographed Saturday, September 22, 2018, in the Mont-Bleu community in Gatineau, after a tornado touched down late Friday.  Darren Brown

Quebec has contributed $1 million to the Canadian Red Cross for short-term aid, he said, and more money is on the way. He is urging citizens to donate as well.

An apartment building on Rue Charles-Albanel is severely damaged Saturday, September 22, 2018 after a tornado touched down late Friday.  Darren Brown/0922 gatineau 1

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

An Gatineau Police car is stationed at the corner of Rue Jumonville and Rue Charles-Albanel, in the Mont-Bleu community in Gatineau, which is in clean-up mode Saturday, September 22, 2018 after a tornado touched down late Friday.  Darren Brown/0922 gatineau 1

Teams noted damage to buildings and trees, including 30 damaged or fallen streetlights and a few dozen traffic lights out of service.

Gatineau Fire officials walk along Rue Étienne-Brule in the Mont-Bleu community in Gatineau, which is in clean-up mode Saturday, September 22, 2018 after a tornado touched down late Friday.  Darren Brown/Postmedia

"We are concentrating on people and getting people back home as soon as possible, as safely as possible," he told reporters.

Destroyed buildings and cars are seen in Mont-Bleu, Gatineau, Quebec, close to Ottawa after a tornado shattered Canada's capital on September 21, 2018.  VINCENT-CARL LERICHE/AFP/Getty Images

He said he came home from work Friday and saw odd-looking clouds form over his building. Before long, it was "carnage."

Destroyed buildings and cars are seen in Mont-Bleu, Gatineau, Quebec, close to Ottawa after a tornado shattered Canada's capital on September 21, 2018. – A tornado sparked chaos near the Canadian capital Ottawa on Friday, injuring dozens as homes were damaged, cars flipped over, and over 130,000 people left without power, local media said. Meteorologists reported gusts whipped up to around 120 miles per hour (190 kilometers per hour), with the city of Gatineau, about five miles north of the capital, taking the brunt.  VINCENT-CARL LERICHE/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, anyone who wants to assist with relief efforts is asked to contact the Canadian Red Cross Society at 1-800-363-7305.

Destroyed buildings and cars are seen in Mont-Bleu, Gatineau, Quebec, close to Ottawa after a tornado shattered Canada's capital on September 21, 2018. – A tornado sparked chaos near the Canadian capital Ottawa on Friday, injuring dozens as homes were damaged, cars flipped over, and over 130,000 people left without power, local media said. Meteorologists reported gusts whipped up to around 120 miles per hour (190 kilometers per hour), with the city of Gatineau, about five miles north of the capital, taking the brunt.  VINCENT-CARL LERICHE/AFP/Getty Images

The area near Mont-Bleu in the Hull sector suffered the greatest impact, with damage to 215 buildings and 1,686 housing units. 

'Just back from the #tornado zone in #Gatineau. This car is my sister-in-law's car. She was in it with her son'  Philippe L. Denault (@phldenault)/Twitter

People walk along Rue Georges-Bilodeau in the the Mont-Bleu community in Gatineau, which is in clean-up mode Saturday, September 22, 2018 after a tornado touched down late Friday.  Darren Brown/Postmedia

"You kind of see it in the movies and on TV and you never think it's going to happen to you," he said.

Destroyed buildings and cars are seen in Mont-Bleu, Gatineau, Quebec, close to Ottawa after a tornado shattered Canada's capital on September 21, 2018.  VINCENT-CARL LERICHE/AFP/Getty Images

The City of Gatineau has deployed almost 200 personnel to affected areas to secure them and assess the damage. 

Firefighters survey damaged apartment buildings in Gatineau, Que.  Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press

"I was sitting outside because, basically, there are a lot of storms and I didn't think much of it. Next thing I know, my table just flew, the tree started going," Said Lloyd. "I was so glad my kids weren't home, they were out doing stuff. I called my ex-wife to make sure the kids were okay and that's when I heard the roof start ripping off. I thought 'this is it', I did a cross and said 'okay I'm ready'. 

He made it as far as the foot of Jumonville Street in the heart of the Mont Bleu neighbourhood hardest hit by the tornado, before police stopped him. He had to continue from there on foot.

The Prime Minister and the Primer both called the Mayor asking if they would need assistance but Watson says at this point in time, they are fine and just need to work to restore power to residents affected.

Even after hearing his wife’s description, Dorris wasn’t prepared for the devastation he saw as he walked up the hilly street.

In the village of Dunrobin some 60 buildings were wiped out or partially destroyed, while in Gatineau more than 215 buildings were damage or destroyed, affecting nearly 17-hundred housing units.

“When I got to my home, it wasn’t destroyed or anything, but it didn’t look good.”

"There was a car in the middle of the street he got hit by the roof in the back building, I guess the roof flew over my building and hit the car," explained Dennis Lusignan. 

“It was pretty crazy last night. At first, they wanted us to sleep in the gym (at the emergency centre.) I told them my wife is pregnant and couldn’t sleep on the floor and they finally found us a room at a hotel near the casino, but that’s just for one night. I have no idea what we’ll do for tonight.”

"In many instances the buildings have collapsed, the roofs fallen off. It really looks like some kind of war zone or something you would see in the American news," Watson Said.

Inside the crowded emergency centre, tornado victim Marc Wilmer joked that he was expecting to have trouble finding a new apartment.

People were happy they didn't sustain any injuries, as five people from Dunrobin were taken to hospital after the storm carved through Porcupine Trail.

“I had to move to Mont Bleu after the home I was staying at (in Old Gatineau) was heavily damaged by floods. I’m a jinx,” Wilmer said with a laugh.

"I look out my balcony and I see this massive funnel cloud had so much debris in it coming towards my building," said Alexis Kincaid.

Elijah Boisbrun, 30, who lives in a low-rise apartment building on Tassé Street in Mont Bleu, said he was babysitting a friend’s kids when the wind blew out the living room window.

Sgt Mark Gatien says many people were at the Carp fair and weren't home when the storm hit. #ottnews pic.twitter.com/SRRI022eHt

“Really, it was like some horror movie, but the rain was pouring into the room and I had to get the kids to shelter.”

VIDEO: Standing in the path of a tornado and looking at the destruction in Dunrobin. #ottnews #ottstorm pic.twitter.com/ow29cJeF49

Boisbrun also helped a disabled elderly woman out of the building. They huddled next to the building until firefighters arrived and helped them get to the emergency centre.

Residents living around Boulevard du Mont-Bleu in Gatineau watched from their homes as the tornado unfolded in front of them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 10:09 AM – People who have lost their homes to the tornado in Gatineaus Mont-Bleu neighbourhood are searching for a place to try and re-establish their lives. David Bergevin has stayed with relatives and friends since Fridays storm ripped the roof off the building where he lives with his girlfriend and her son.

“[Were] devastated, trying to get through the shock, because we havent really had time for it to seep in to be honest,” Bergevin said.

Clean-up continues in Dunrobin and Gatineau following the destruction left behind from Friday nights tornado.

The City of Gatineau and the Canadian Red Cross announced a committee Tuesday to help people find long-term housing, with the Red Cross providing some financial assistance.

“We dont have a roof, the rain is seeping through each floor and now it is coming into our place,” he said.

“Its a matter of time: is the ceiling going to collapse, and [will] everything [be] completely gone?”

“Right now we know we are not the only people in this situation, everyone is in a race against time,” he said.

People's lives torn apart. Everywhere we turn in this neighborhood more scenes like this. So sad. The power of this severe weather is evident everywhere here. #GatineauTornado @weathernetwork pic.twitter.com/h8Eot2OSYS

Sophie Matte went to see her parents home in a funeral of sorts. About half the building collapsed, the roof came off and landed on a car.

“Its my childhood home,” she said. “Its all my fathers life. Everything he accumulated in his life was there.”

Mattes parents saved their wedding album. She was able to salvage her Harry Potter books and childhood writing.

A 12-unit apartment on rue Daniel-Johnson is one of the first buildings to get demolished after Fridays storms. Some buildings in the region were destroyed by the extremely strong winds. (Lorian Bélanger/CBC)

Pascal Mathieu, head of its Quebec chapter, said 260 people have been given shelter services, either at a community centre or in hotels.

“Were working with the city trying to find apartments so they could move from a hotel to an apartment,” he said.

“The city is telling us that there is capacity. The main problem is apartment price, which is the reason why well be providing financial support to help pay the rent.”

The assistance will cover the difference between old and new rent for the remaining term of a displaced persons lease, Mathieu said.

Mathieu said the organization will be working to provide some financial aid so people who dont have insurance can replace some of their lost belongings.