‘Absolutely crazy’: Residents reeling after tornado touches down in southwestern Quebec

Click to play video: 'Suspected tornado touches down in Rigaud, Que.'
Suspected tornado touches down in Rigaud, Que.
Many residents of southern Quebec are still coming to terms with what they saw after a suspected tornado ripped through the countryside Monday night, leaving multiple homes and properties damaged. Global's Brayden Jagger Haines brings us the latest. – May 28, 2024

Many residents in southwestern Quebec are still in shock after a tornado touched down near the Ontario border, uprooting trees and damaging homes in its wake.

Environment Canada confirmed “the first tornado of the season” in Quebec occurred near Rigaud around 5:30 p.m. Monday during powerful spring thunderstorms.

The weather agency says the municipalities of Pointe-Fortune and Très-Saint-Rédempteur were also affected. Videos showed funnel clouds plowing through the area.

Très-Saint-Rédempteur homeowner Dan Gélinas looked outside his window and had just enough time to run for cover.

“I’ve seen big winds here but this is absolutely crazy,” he said.

He grabbed his dog as the tornado flattened his barn to the ground within 30 seconds.

“We jumped down in the basement,” Gélinas said as he took in the damage on his property Tuesday. “By the time we hit the basement floor, we got up and it was all done.”

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Hydro workers clear downed wires in Tres-Saint-Redempteur, Quebec on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 after a suspected tornado went through yesterday evening. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Rigaud Fire Department acting chief Guillaume Roy said four homes were damaged, including one whose roof was ripped off. A number of barns and grain silos were also damaged, and power lines were downed.

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Despite the storm’s significant wreckage, Roy said no injuries were reported.

“One garage disappeared and all the chickens in it — we don’t know where it went,” Roy said in a phone interview Monday night.

Julia Asselstine, who lives with Gélinas, was at work in Montreal when the tornado hit their property. Along with their barn, massive mature 40-foot trees were also brought down.

The couple plans on rebuilding with cement walls to guard against future storms.

“It’s not about the stuff,” Asselstine said. “We are just thankful that everyone is alive and well. We can rebuild.”

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Julia Asselstine, right, surveys the damage to her property in Tres-Saint-Redempteur, Quebec on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 after a suspected tornado went through yesterday evening. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Environment Canada says teams will be on site to investigate the tornado and assess the aftermath. The weather system brought up to 80 millimetres of rain to some parts of Quebec, knocking out power and leaving thousands in the dark.

Environment Canada meteorologist Jean-Philippe Begin said May is the beginning of severe weather season in Quebec, with July seeing the most action.

“The busiest months are ahead of us, so June, July, August and September are busier months than May. So it’s only the beginning,” Begin said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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