At least nine people have died following a treacherous storm that tore through southern Ontario and Quebec.
On Sunday, the death toll rose to at least nine after a woman died when the boat she was in capsized on the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers, Que.
Although it is still unclear how many Canadians the storm killed, Ontario police reported seven deaths on Saturday. The deaths were caused by falling trees in different parts of the province.
An eighth person in Ontario was killed by a falling tree branch in the storm’s aftermath on Sunday.
The storm came during Canada’s Victoria Day long weekend. Some victims were camping, golfing or taking a weekend stroll when they were killed, police reports suggest.
The known victims include a 44-year-old man who died west of Ottawa in Greater Madawaska, a woman in her 70’s who was out for a walk in Brampton, and a 59-year-old man on a golf course in Ottawa, as of Saturday.
One person was also killed in a camping trailer near Pinehurst in Waterloo Region. Two others faced minor injuries in the incident after a tree fell on the trailer at a Grand River Conservation Authority parkland area Saturday afternoon.
A 64-year-old woman at home in the North Kawartha Township was also killed by the storm, along with a 74-year-old woman in Port Hope, provincial police reported on Sunday.
A 30-year-old man also died in Ganaraska Forest east of Toronto, according to Durham regional police.
The storm measured winds up to 132 kilometres an hour, according to Environmental and Climate Change Canada meteorologist, Gerald Cheng. This marks the first time a thunderstorm was severe enough to trigger an emergency broadcast.
Environment Canada issued the broadcast-intrusive emergency alert that went out to television, radio stations and mobile phones.
The storm itself looks to have been what is called a derecho, Cheng said.
“The storms that swept across Ontario and Quebec yesterday caused serious damage, claimed several lives, and left many without power,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on social media Sunday.
“We’re thinking of everyone affected, and thanking the crews who are working to restore power – we stand ready to provide federal support if needed.”
Emergency crews have been working to restore power as widespread damage caused by the severe weather has spurred some Ontario towns include Uxbridge, north of Toronto, and Clarence-Rockland, east of Toronto, to declare states of emergency.
“We have numerous buildings damaged and people displaced,” Uxbridge Mayor Dave Barton, told the Canadian Press.
The downtown core sustained significant damage, including to several residential buildings and a brewery, while the town is still experiencing significant power outages, according to Barton.
“The largest pressure is actually the lack of power and infrastructure. At the moment, we don’t know what we don’t know. Because most phone lines are down, we don’t know who needs assistance and who doesn’t,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians across the rest of Ontario and Quebec also remained without power on Sunday as hydro providers warned it could take days for some to see it turn back on.
Over 300,000 Hydro One Customers had their power restored as of Sunday, the utility said in an update online.
In Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson also confirmed the “entire city” had been affected by the storm during a news conference Sunday afternoon.
“Yesterday’s storm was fast and violent. This has been a very, very difficult 24-hour period,” he said. “We don’t have clear sight as to when everyone will get their power back.”
More than 200 hydro poles in Ottawa were damaged beyond repair by the storm, according to Joseph Muglia, director of system operations and automation at Hydro Ottawa. Many of them snapped in half by the winds force.
A truck with loaded replacement poles headed to the city on Sunday, Muglia confirmed.
Nine respite sites have been opened across Ottawa at community centres with areas for people to charge their devices, take showers and, in some cases, access food. The Salvation Army and Canadian Red Cross are aiding at many of the sites.
The Environment Canada weather station at Toronto Pearson International Airport measured gusts of 121 kilometres an hour when the storm blew through the city at noon the day of the storm.
“We’re seeing evidence of some damage, such as roofs off and hydro towers crumbled, that kind of thing that gets more into 180 to 220 kilometres per hour,” David Sills, executive director of the Northern Tornadoes Project at Western University, told the Canadian Press.
He said teams from the project have gone to the Uxbridge area as well as to southern Ottawa over suspicions that they could have been hit by tornadoes or elevated winds.
The last derecho storm to hit the region with such strong wind speeds was back in 1995, according to Sills.
“This is a fairly rare event in Canada where it’s just widespread wind damage over a long, long track and reaching wind speeds that are quite high.”
— With files from Isaac Callan and the Canadian Press
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