Meteorologists confirm tornado hit Hamilton
Environment Canada confirmed Thursday that a tornado was responsible for ripping the roof off an elementary school in Hamilton, Ont., on Wednesday, slightly injuring two students.
After surveying the damage, meteorologists with the agency declared that the school and its neighbourhood were hit by a Level 1 tornado, which usually carries winds of between 120 and 180 km/h.
Canada's weather office added that it is highly unusual for tornadoes to be recorded in this country so late in the fall.
The two children who suffered cuts and bruises were among a group practising volleyball in the gym of Lawfield Public School at about 4 p.m. when the severe weather hit.
"I just heard a big gust of wind and the roof just collapsed," said Matt Theoret, one of the students in the gym. "The windows blew in... We all ran."
Two students who were hit by falling debris were taken to hospital for treatment.
"This emergency scene could have been much worse and a lot more tragic just due to the fact that if it had happened a half hour earlier, the elementary school would have been filled with children or with children leaving," said Bob Simpson of Hamilton's Emergency Medical Services.
A number of children still doing after-school activities at Lawfield were evacuated to a nearby arena, but then that building's roof began peeling off.
School officials have closed Lawfield until further notice.
Several areas 'devastated,' says mayor
Witnesses reported black skies and funnel-shaped clouds just before the bout of severe weather hit, downing trees and power lines.
"It was eerie in the dark of night and it's even eerier in the light of day," Hamilton Mayor Larry Di Ianni told CBC News Thursday morning.
He added that he was grateful no lives were lost, though the storm "devastated a number of areas in our city" and knocked out power to 4,000 homes.
"We'll fix that and get on with our lives," Di Ianni said.
A large tree fell in front of Steve Burkholder's house and the wind flipped over his camper trailer, which had been parked nearby.
Burkholder was inside with his daughter at the time.
"I just felt the windows kind of go whoosh," he said, describing how he looked outside to see his trailer sitting on its roof on his front lawn.
The winds took a toll on Hazel Clarke's house.
"We were all just relaxing and then we heard thunder and lightning and the door banged," she said. "Then we heard it again and all of a sudden the roof caved in. The whole of the roof of the house is gone."
By Thursday morning, electricity had been restored to most of the homes that were without power in the wake of the storm.