Ottawa hit with another tornado, residents complain they got no warning – CityNews

Ottawa hit with another tornado, residents complain they got no warning - CityNews
Emergency tornado alert wasnt issued to everyone, Ottawans complain
Environment Canada is reviewing its public alerts system after residents of a suburban Ottawa neighbourhood hit by a tornado Sunday were never warned that one was on the way.

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.

WHO HAD THE ADVANTAGE? In many ways, the Allies and Germans were well-matched. The Allies had far superior air and sea power; the Germans had troops and tanks available for quick reinforcement. The Germans had better tanks and anti-tank guns while the Allies had more of both. German troops, in many cases, were better trained and superbly led by hardened veterans. The Germans, however, were hampered by shortages of supplies, especially fuel while the Allies had plenty of everything. German generals also faced ham-handed interference by Adolf Hitler; Allied generals were able to unfold their plans without harassment from above.

A spokeswoman for the department said the weather leading up to the tornado didn’t suggest one could develop — it was warm but not hot and not that windy and only some thunderstorms were considered possible. It wasn’t until someone near the airport in Gatineau, Que., spotted a funnel cloud that the tornado risk became known.

WHY NORMANDY? The decision was largely dictated by technology and supply problems. Beaches had to be within range of British-based fighter planes and easy striking distance of a port, which would be needed to unload supplies. The Nazis believed the Allies would attack at the Pas de Calais, which was the closest point to Great Britain. Knowing this, the Allies devised an elaborate deception to keep the Nazis focused on this area while actually preparing for Normandy, which had lighter defences, suitable beaches and the requisite proximity to ports.

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 wasn’t for their area.

WHY D-DAY? A combination of factors including weather, the phases of the moon and the tides led to June 6 being the day of the invasion. As for the moniker, military planners habitually designated the day an operation was to begin as D-Day — the 'D' has no particular significance. However, because the Normandy invasion was largest of its kind ever attempted, D-Day became forever associated with the operation on June 6, 1944, the official name of which was Operation Overlord.

In one video of the tornado posted to Twitter, the cellphone alert can be heard going off as the tornado is passing.

THE WAR TO JUNE 6: Allied fortunes had rebounded by 1944 after the massive German conquests of 1940-41. British and American armies had driven the Germans from North Africa and Sicily, forced Italy to surrender and were moving up the Italian boot while Allied bombers were pounding German cities and towns day and night. In the East, the Soviets were on the march to Berlin. And in the Pacific, the Americans were making headway against the Japanese.

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 who’s also an inspector with the Ottawa Fire Service. It might be better if we had it on time.

Smith's 21-year-old sister, Claudette Priscilla June Osborne-Tyo, vanished from Winnipeg in 2008. The family had received a voice message in which Osborne-Tyo explained she was with a man she didn't know at a motel and was afraid. Police were quickly called, but the case wasn't investigated for 10 days, Smith said.

Messier’s 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 didn’t 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.

Tim Warmington, a spokesman for Public Safety Canada, which is the department responsible for the Alert Ready system, said Monday Canadians won’t receive alerts if their phones are turned off, are in silent or airplane mode, are outside the area affected, aren’t compatible with or connected to LTE networks, or are connected to cell towers that aren’t in the coverage area.

Several homes sustained damage to their roofs, as the winds ripped the shingles and underlay off, exposing bare the plywood underneath. Trees snapped in the winds, crashing down on top of vehicles and homes in the area.

Environment Canada spokeswoman Samantha Bayard said her department will be reviewing this event with other public alerting partners to evaluate the alerting performance.

Residents were out Sunday evening with chainsaws, and city crews are out chipping up the fallen trees on roads and in city parks, Monday. However, all of the scars from this tornado will likely take some time to fade.

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 city’s main power stations.

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“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.

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While Environment Canada decides when to send a tornado warning, a company called Pelmorex operates the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination System, which sends out public safety messages. The company sent a brief message Sunday saying that users must have up-to-date phones and the latest operating systems, and must be connected to an LTE network.

Questions are again being raised about the efficacy of the Alert Ready System after some people in Ottawa didn't receive Sunday's emergency tornado warning on their mobile devices.

A final point of confusion: The alert covered only a list of places that did not include Ottawa: Gatineau, Papineauville, Chénéville and Lachute in Quebec, as well as the United Counties of Prescott and Russell in Ontario. However many people in Ottawa still received it.

Some residents in Orléans, where the tornado caused damage, said they got an emergency message on their phones, while others said they did not.

It added in an email Monday that “we, along with our Alert Ready partners are continuing to review and validate the reports that some people did not receive the alerts on June 2nd, and as such we are unable to provide additional information at this time.”

Lisa Ouimet, who lives on Bilberry Drive in Orléans, knew a tornado was passing overhead from the way her bolted-down gazebo was moving and swelling.

"About 15 minutes later, we went outside because the neighbours had come to the door to make sure that everybody was OK. We all gathered outside to discuss what had just happened, and that's when we got a notification.

• “I live in Orléans not far from where the tornado hit and didn’t receive anything. I’m with Vidéotron and have an S9+. I have no clue how these alerts work, but they don’t seem to work well enough.”

"My next-door neighbour got one on his phone but it was for Gatineau, Que. I never received anything on my phone, my son didn't receive anything. The neighbours across the street, nothing," she said.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association said there’s is no possible estimate for how many phones did not receive a signal: “It is a broadcast system, one-way communication, much like radio.”

"It happened so fast that we didn't even have time to run to the basement. And then once it was all over, I sat down and … I just started crying because it could have been so much worse than what happened," Ouimet added.

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.

"I'm not sure how the system works, but something needs to be done. It needs to be fixed."

“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.”

He found out about the tornado when his wife, who was in B.C. at the time, phoned him. A neighbour had called her to tell her about the wind damage on their property, and then she called her husband.

While the tornados precise track is still being investigated, many Orléans residents reported seeing it touch down, said ​​​​​​Orléans Coun. Matthew Luloff.

"The atmosphere that evening was not expected to support the development of damaging thunderstorms and the storms that did occur developed very rapidly," said spokesperson Samantha Bayard. 

“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.”

According to Environment Canada, the tornado was first spotted in Orléans, about 10 kilometres southeast of the Gatineau airport, at 5:54 p.m. ET. It moved east along the Ottawa River toward Cumberland, with damage spotted as far as Clarence Creek, Ont.

The weather agency later said around 8 p.m. that a possible tornado had also been spotted near LOrignal, Ont., moving east at about 30 kilometres per hour.

While the tornado was already moving through the area, Environment Canada issued a tornado warning in Gatineau, Que., Papineau, Que., and the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, Ont., at about 6 p.m. An alert was also issued in Lachute, Que., later Sunday evening.

Luloff told CBC Ottawa that hed seen extensive damage to trees and property, particularly in parts of the ward that sit along the Ottawa River. 

Bayard said the alerts will bleed across regions if a recipient is close to the area where an alert is issued.  People close to, but not in, the warning areas of Gatineau and Prescott might have received alerts, she said.  

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) indicated that the lack of a tornado warning may be why some people in the capital didn't receive an alert.

A Surprise Tornado Tore Through Ottawa Yesterday & The Damage Was Extensive (VIDEOS)

"We don't issue the alerts. If Environment Canada failed to do that, it's something that maybe we have to check with them," added Patricia Valladao, another CRTC spokesperson.

The Alert Ready System was launched in April 2018 to warn Canadians about emergencies such as natural disasters, terrorist threats and Amber Alerts.

It takes alerts issued by organizations such as Environment Canada and police, and distributes them to wireless devices in the areas covered by the alerts.

The company Pelmorex, which operates the technical backbone of the Alert Ready System, wrote in an emailed statement Monday it's received reports that some people in the areas where tornado warnings were issued — Gatineau, Papineau, Lachute, and the United Counties of Prescott-Russell, Ont. — didn't receive the alert.

"We, along with our Alert Ready partners, are in the process of reviewing and validating these identified reports," the statement reads.

The company also said that not all mobile devices are guaranteed to receive alerts. In order for the alerts to work, a device must:

About 98.5 per cent of Canadians had access to LTE networks in 2016, according to the CRTC's 2018 communications monitoring report.

It's not the first time people in Ottawa have complained about spotty alert system service. Less than a year ago, when  two tornadoes touched down in Ottawa, some people complained they didn't receive the emergency alert.

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