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Clean-up continues after Ontario storm leaves 10 dead, thousands without power

The level of damage came in part from the nature of the storm, which looks to have been what is called a derecho, something that is a fairly rare occurrence in Canada, according to Dr. David Sills, the executive director of the NTP at Western University.
2022-05-22 storm 3
Aftermath of the Ottawa storm that happened on Saturday, May 21, 2022. (Photo/Dani-Dube)

A major clean-up effort is underway following Saturday’s fierce storm that left at least ten dead and hundreds of thousands without power after it swept across southern Ontario.

The towns of Uxbridge, north of Toronto, and Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, have declared states of emergency and crews from the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) have been dispatched to determine if a tornado touched down in those areas.

Environment Canada says a top wind speed of 132 km/h was recorded at Kitchener-Waterloo airport at the height of the storm on Saturday. Pearson International Airport in Toronto recorded a top gust of 120 km/h while Toronto Island Airport saw wind speeds of 89 km/h.

The level of damage came in part from the nature of the storm, which looks to have been what is called a derecho, something that is a fairly rare occurrence in Canada, according to Dr. David Sills, the executive director of the NTP at Western University.

“They occur south of the border, probably a couple of times a year. In Canada, the last time I remember a derecho causing high impact damage in an urban area was in the 1990s,” Sills tells CityNews.

“Derecho’s can also produce tornados along their leading edge and we think there may have been at least a couple and we’re investigating those [Sunday].”

Watches and warnings for the fast moving system prompted Environment Canada to send a text alert to Ontarians – the agency’s first use of the broadcast-interrupting weather alert system for a thunderstorm – warning of a “dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation.”

“Usually it’s only a tornado where it goes over alert ready and people get it on their cell phones but they made the decision a year or two ago that, if there’s a severe thunderstorm that looks very dangerous they’ll also put that on alert ready, and that’s what they did yesterday,” said Sills.

Police say seven deaths in Ontario were caused by falling trees that were felled by the high winds – a 70-year-old woman in Brampton; a 44-year-old man in Greater Madawaska, west of Ottawa; a 59-year-old man at a golf course in the west end of Ottawa; a 74-year-old woman from Port Hope; a 64-year-old woman from Cornwall at a home in North Kawartha Township; a 30-year-old man in Ganaraska Forest in Durham Region; and one person who died at a camping trailer at Pinehurst Lake.

The same storm was responsible for the death of a woman in Quebec, who died when a boat she was in capsized in the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers.

An ninth person was killed by a falling tree branch in the storm’s aftermath on Sunday.

On Monday, Peterborough police confirmed a 10th death.

“Sadly, a 61-year-old Lakefield man has succumbed to injuries suffered during the storm,” officials said on social media.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is offering federal support to Ontario and Quebec to help with damage caused by the storms the day before.

In a tweet on Sunday, Trudeau wrote in part, “We’re thinking of everyone affected, and thanking the crews who are working to restore power.”

Hundreds of thousands remain without power as crews work non-stop to restore services, however, hydro providers are warning that it could take days for some to get power back.

“Between trees, branches, broken poles and wires down, it’s really a very very messy messy cleanup,” said Hydro One spokeswoman Tiziana Baccega Rosa.

She said while it’s not unusual to have such high numbers of people temporarily without power, which for Hydro One stood at about 270,000 Sunday morning, the extent of the damage, including the toppling of metal transmission towers in the Ottawa area, is notable.

“That is unique, and it tells you sort of the severity of the storm,” she said.

Technical issues forced Toronto Hydro to take down their interactive outage map on Saturday.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath expressed her condolences during a campaign press conference in Toronto on Sunday morning.

“I want to say how much my heart goes out to to the families and friends and communities where people lost their lives or were injured by the storm.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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