The tornado, preliminarily classified as an EF1 with winds up to 178 kilometres an hour, reportedly injured one person slightly but it tore off roofs, levelled fences and uprooted trees. While Environment Canada issued tornado warnings for several nearby areas in western Quebec and eastern Ontario Sunday night, there was never a warning issued for any part of Ottawa.
A spokeswoman for the department said the weather leading up to the tornado didnt suggest one could develop – it was warm but not hot and not that windy and only some thunderstorms were considered possible. It wasnt until someone near the airport in Gatineau, Que., spotted a funnel cloud that the tornado risk became known.
By the time the warning was communicated over the Alert Ready warning system, the tornado had already touched down across the river in Orleans, a suburb in east Ottawa. Numerous residents posted to Twitter and Facebook that they either never got the alert message at all, or that by the time they got it, the storm was already over and it wasnt for their area.
In one video of the tornado posted to Twitter, the cellphone alert can be heard going off as the tornado is passing.
It was a little bit late and a little bit too far east, but you know what, it is better than what we had before, said Marc Messier, an Orleans resident whos also an inspector with the Ottawa Fire Service. It might be better if we had it on time.
Messiers son called him shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday to say a tornado had just gone down his street. Messier was driving home and stopped rather than drive into the storm. He shot video of the tornado from the overpass where he stopped, and says he didnt get the alert warning until after he stopped filming. And the alert was for Prescott-Russell, a county east and south of the city.
Since April 2018, wireless networks have been required to carry emergency-alert messages to warn people of things like severe weather or missing children. The Amber Alerts for missing children have been criticized for waking people up in the middle of the night and some Ottawa residents said on Twitter they were perplexed that they get notifications for missing children many hundreds of kilometres away but not for a tornado that was right beside them.
Tornadoes strike east end of Ottawa area
Tim Warmington, a spokesman for Public Safety Canada, which is the department responsible for the Alert Ready system, said Monday Canadians wont receive alerts if their phones are turned off, are in silent or airplane mode, are outside the area affected, arent compatible with or connected to LTE networks, or are connected to cell towers that arent in the coverage area.
Environment Canada spokeswoman Samantha Bayard said her department will be reviewing this event with other public alerting partners to evaluate the alerting performance.
Ottawa-area residents are more aware of tornado risks after six tornadoes touched down in the area last September. They destroyed dozens of homes in the west end of the city and in Gatineau, and took out one of the citys main power stations.
“There’s probably 20 to 25 streets that sustained quite a bit of tree damage, some roof damage as well,” said Matthew Luloff, city councillor for Orléans Ward.
Many cellphones stayed silent when tornado alert came
Residents in Ottawa's east end neighbourhood of Orléans are assessing the damage from a major storm Sunday evening that saw a tornado rip through the region.
A single tornado was spotted near the Gatineau airport, just on the other side of the Ottawa River, at 5:55 p.m., Environment Canada said.
Tornadoes hit Gatineau, Ottawa areas, though no injuries reported
The weather agency later said around 8 p.m. that a possible tornado had also been spotted near L'Orignal, Ont., moving east at about 30 kilometres per hour.
"But regarding its intensity, its precise track, all these different details, we'll have to be on the ground. And these [questions] will be answered tomorrow morning."
The weather agency had placed the city of Gatineau, as well the Papineau, Que., area to the northwest and the municipality of Prescott-Russell, Ont., to the east under a tornado warning as the tornado was moving along the Ottawa River.
"One gentleman sustained minor injuries during the cleanup, and he's going to be just fine," Luloff told Ottawa Today with Mark Sutcliffe on 1310 NEWS.
All three warnings have now been lifted, although severe thunderstorm warnings remain in place in certain parts of the region.
Tornadoes hit eastern Ontario and western Quebec
In Ottawa's Orléans neighbourhood, trees were uprooted and several homes were damaged by the storm, fire officials said.
Greg Laidlaw said he was downstairs in his Balsam Drive home when he suddenly heard the wind pick up.
“The trees started to bend and the wind howled,” David Robb said. “I didnt know if it was a down draft … or a tornado, but it sure wreaked its vengeance on us in a short period of time.”
Tornado warnings in effect for eastern Ontario and western Quebec and
"We just took cover," he said. "It was kind of scary but it wasn't that bad. I'm sure people got hit worse."
They said when they assessed the damage afterward, they found they had no structural damage to their home.
“But regarding its intensity, its precise track, all these different details, well have to be on the ground. And these [questions] will be answered tomorrow morning.”
Tornadoes over Ottawa just bad luck says Environment Canada
"The trees started to bend and the wind howled," David Robb said. "I didn't know if it was a down draft … or a tornado, but it sure wreaked its vengeance on us in a short period of time."
Ottawa tornado was unexpected, but not abnormal: Environment Canada
Ottawa paramedics said they handled a single "minor" call about a branch that fell on a resident's head while they were cleaning up debris.
While the tornado's precise track is still being investigated, many Orléans residents reported seeing it touch down, said Orléans Coun. Matthew Luloff.
Luloff told CBC Ottawa that he'd seen extensive damage to trees and property, particularly in parts of the ward that sit along the Ottawa River.
However, the damage didn't appear as severe as what happened during the Sept. 2018 tornado strikes, Luloff said.
Highway 174 and Jeanne D'Arc Boulevard had both been closed during the worst of the storm, but they have since reopened.
The City of Ottawa said there were also reports of power outages and that first responders were performing door-to-door checks in the area.
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