Thursday, 30 April 2009


Ok, so it wasn't a huge one, nothing like what the US gets on a regular basis, and occasionally here in Canada. Ottawa has had very few recordings of tornadoes actually in the city. Last Saturday evening, we had one. The weakest kind, an F-O, hit our neighborhood; 6 doors down from our house, the roof was lifted off our neighbors:

The entire roof of both sides of the semi-detached house was lifted right off. We didn't have a warning that anything was coming; it got dark, and suddenly the wind hit, and we ran closing windows and suddenly there was a huge bang, and I thought we'd been hit by lightning (we have a tendency in my family to attract it) and the power went off. The wind was so powerful, but because our house faces south on a side road and not east-west like the houses on Britannia Road, we don't feel it from the west, unlike our neighbors who took the full brunt. About 10 minutes after the wind ended, we saw flashing lights and that was our first clue something had happened. The big bang we'd heard was the roof being lifted right off the walls and landing, right side up, still in one huge piece, on the road. If you look closely, you can see the little furnace stacks. The insulation blew everywhere, and both houses have no ceiling left on the second floor.

This wasn't the only damage, only among the worst - the tornado continued through Britannia up on the heights and knocked more trees down, eventually going to a block 5 km down the road and destroying an apartment building roof - the other major structural damage in the city - before petering out. The miracle? No one got hurt. Here are some news links to the tornado in the city: CTV news , and Ottawa Citizen, which charts the tornado's path.

If you look carefully, you will see that the Gods have their sense of irony, or Coyote was busy that night: the only trees that fell on this street next to ours, fell on cars:

The saddest part, was the damage the tornado did to part of Britannia Park, and the lovely 100 year old trees in one part of it:

This is the play area that my children love, once full of shady pine trees:

The little boy in the orange sweater is my youngest son, and my daughter is in the red sweater in the pictures, my husband the man in the blue jacket. Once we got over the first shock, the kids began to play among the new logs. There were none before in the park. In some of the pictures you can see the children's play structure and the party gondola, both of which were left unscathed by the winds and tornado. I tried to get the path the tornado took through the trees, those lovely pine trees. Before, the park was a lovely park full of shady pines trees. So the break in the trees is what the tornado did. It was new, and it's heartbreaking to see how they were snapped off or pulled up by their roots. It was an awesome display of what the smallest tornado can do. It's the closest I've come to one, and I hope that will be the closest.

We lost power immediately and it wasn't restored until late Sunday evening, by which time the food in my freezer had started to defrost, so I spent Monday cooking what I could of our meat. We're still eating food cooked that day!

The funny thing is, we never got a storm, we didn't get much rain, and after the 10 minutes of wild wind, it was all over. Another ironical thing is that my best friend, who was over for dinner that night, and I were watching a National Geographic show on hurricanes! Later we said it might have been our fault......I know I will never forget that tremendous bang as the roof hit the road, nor the sound of the wind, and how quickly it was all done.

The miracle also - the city had just planted some new baby trees, and in some of the pictures, you can see the trunks fell beside them, but I don't believe any were crushed. There are no bushes in this area of the park, so all that low-lying bushes are really fallen trees and branches. It was really something to behold, and as I walked through, I burst into tears, overwhelmed by the loss of the trees. I realized what Environment Canada took another day to admit - we had had a tornado come through.

The beauty and the awesome terror of nature - it was quite a weekend.

I will be back to blogging about books, soon!


Jeane said...

Wow, that's pretty scary. I've never seen a real tornado. When I saw the photos of your kids on the logs I thought- that's just what my daughter would do- find it exciting and play among the new landscape of downed trees, after the scare was gone. How sad to see the beautiful trees on the ground.

Susan said...

Jeane: I was busy closing windows, on the wrong side of the house, so I missed it. Only the people in the apartment building at the top of our street could see it - it's a steep hill- we're at the bottom, closer to the river, and of course, only if you know where to look. I was just so wrapped up in the hurricane tv show!!! So I never saw anything, just heard it. It was quite something.

Chris said...

Oh no Susan! I'm so glad that you are all ok! That's so scary. I know how sad it is to see all of those beautiful trees destroyed :( After Katrina, we had all of these beautiful old oaks in New Orleans that were just totally ruined. So sad.

On the bright side, your children are adorable!

Bybee said...

I'm glad no one was hurt, but that is sad about the trees.
I'm glad you and your family are OK.

Kailana said...

When we had a hurricane a couple years ago it downed a lot of very old trees, too. Actually, this tornado opened up a conversation about the hurricane with one of my friends and he was pointing out how you can still see the path of the hurricane in some places! I didn't even consider I knew anyone where the tornado hit, so I am glad to see you are fine!

JoAnn said...

How scary! I'm so glad you are all

DesLily said...

well that would make me wet my pants! I am glad you and your family are alright!! It scares me that I have to move to florida where they get some tornado's and there are no basements in fla!..

Debi said...

Oh Susan, I'm so very glad that you and your family are okay!!! I know how scary tornadoes can be. I can still vividly remember seeing one as a kid. Luckily that one did no damage. And I can still vividly see the debris that had fallen into my parents' yard after a devastating one totally destroyed a town about ten miles from their house. Scary things indeed tornadoes are! So sad to see those beautiful trees. But on the other hand, I absolutely loved the peek at your family! Hope you all are feeling okay now...those kinds of things can leave one shaken. (((HUGS)))

Cath said...

I'm so glad you and your family are all right. That must have been very scary!

Your kids are beautiful.

Matthew said...

Glad you're ok! I was in one before...not fun at all.

Nymeth said...

Susan! I've been thinking about you lately for no particular reason other than I miss you. I'm so glad no one was hurt! That must have been so scary.

Miss D. said...

Wow! Scary! But so glad you guys weren't hurt and there wasn't much damage... looking forward to your future book posts. :)

Susan said...

Chris: thank you! And of course, our few downed trees and destroyed property is nothing compared to the tornadoes and hurricanes you get regularly in the US. It's still shocking when it hits, though. Can you see any new trees coming up in place of the old oaks? That must have been such a loss.

Bybee: thank you! and it is sad about the trees.

Kailana: Now you can say "I know someone who lives in Britannia Park in Ottawa"! lol and thanks, I'm very glad no one was hurt anywhere during this tornado.

What hurricane hit you a few years back?

Jo Ann: thanks! and it was even more scary after, when it sank it what had hit.

Deslily: well the good thing about Florida is that you can run away in a car, the bad news is that it does get hit. Where in Florida are you moving to, do you know yet? and thanks :-)

Debi: thanks! and I'm glad you enjoyed the peek at my family! I told them you thought they were adorable. We didn't get much warning, so it was afterwards that was more shocking. I was always very curious about them - about powerful weather, so I have to admit I am a tiny bit mad at myself for not looking out the window in that direction! People in a large apartment building at the top of the hill by our area saw everything though. It must have been a shock to you to see all that stuff in your old house as a child, though. And frightening.

Cath: thank you! they have their moments of looking adorable!

Matthew: that IS scary. Not fun, there is nothing anyone can do as it hits. How big was the one you were in?

Nymeth: I've been thinking about you too! and now that I've been in one, I think I will remember the sound of the wind - but I didn't really know before. I'm sure it will turn up in a story now! lol We're all glad we are ok too, of course, and all our neighbors too.

Miss D: I have so many book posts to do! and they were almost all good reads! and thanks for the good wishes :-D

Robin said...

What an awful and scary experience to go through! I'm glad you are all alright, and I hope that life gets back to normal really quickly for you and your neighborhood.

GeraniumCat said...

Goodness, those tree pictures are amazing - it puts my fears about windy nights into perspective.

Susan said...

Robin: thank you! Most of the neighborhood was tidied up by last Sunday, and most of the trees taken away. But there was a sudden wind at the park and even the kids were nervous and thinking tornado, so I think the memories will linger alot longer.

Geraniumcat: You get fierce north winds up there in northern England! And certainly England has had it's share of bad storms and even tornadoes occasionally. So here's hoping all the trees up there are healthy and strong. :-D