Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale praised the work of local first responders and residents on Tuesday, as he toured the west Ottawa community of Dunrobin, where dozens of homes were left severely damaged by a powerful tornado on Friday.
The EF-3 category twister formed in Kinburn and ripped through Dunrobin before crossing the Ottawa river and blazing through the Quebec city of Gatineau — all the while levelling homes, smashing windows, destroying cars, snapping trees and knocking out power lines and grids.
Just before that tornado struck, a less powerful twister blew through Calabogie, approximately 100 kilometres west of Ottawa, while a violent third tornado hit several west-end neighbourhoods in the national capital, Environment Canada confirmed.
In a scrum with reporters in Dunrobin, Goodale applauded the efforts of police, firefighters, paramedics, hydro workers and Red Cross officials for what they have accomplished in the past 72 hours. But he added he’s also heard stories “over and over again” about community members who have stepped up in a time of dire need.
WATCH: More coverage of the Ottawa-area tornadoes
“You also have ordinary people like friends and neighbours … and just by instincts, they are there for each other and doing the right thing,” Goodale said. “And that’s enormously encouraging about the kind of community this is and the kind of country we live in, that that’s people’s automatic instinct to be there to help.”
“The response has been truly extraordinary.”
Many Ottawans are still reeling from the damage caused by the three twisters on Friday and Tuesday marks Day 4 of extensive response and cleanup operations. In Dunrobin, a call is out for volunteers to register and help with cleanup efforts.
Canada’s public safety minister told reporters on Tuesday the federal government is playing a supporting role to provinces and municipalities as they help those parts of the National Capital Region affected by the tornadoes and windstorms.
Goodale said he is struck by the severity of the damage in Dunrobin.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers have been in tornado-ravaged areas to ease pressure on local forces, Goodale said, and there was an informal request for federal help with surveillance and mapping of impacted areas.
Goodale said the federal government has not provided financial assistance because the first portion of response and recovery costs are covered by the provinces, but Ottawa will step up if the price tag reaches a certain level.
Federal assistance after large-scale natural disasters is determined by a formula under Canada’s so-called Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements.
— With files from Mike Le Couteur and the Canadian Press