Midland tornado damage could reach $15M

Damage from a tornado that ripped through Midland, Ont., could be as high as $15 million, according to insurance experts.

Environment Canada confirms destruction wrought by a twister

Damage from a tornado that ripped through Midland, Ont., could be as high as $15 million, according to insurance experts.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has set up a counter at the Red Cross shelter in Midland for people who need advice about damage and insurance.

Residents have been sifting through the rubble after a tornado tore through the area Wednesday evening, damaging homes and devastating a local trailer park.

The twister knocked down power lines and tore through the 323-unit Smith's Camp trailer park, inflicting widespread damage but only minor injuries. About 50 residences were ruined, displacing 50 families.

High winds knocked down trees, ripped the roof off a Honda dealership and damaged several local stores, including the local Water Depot, one resident said. About 100 structures were damaged.

Local officials said 20 people were taken to hospital with injuries, none of them critical. A provincial disaster assessment team is on scene and there were no reports of deaths.

Midland Mayor Jim Downer declared a state of emergency and said a "small army" of residents has been working to assist the people left homeless by the storm.

A tornado that ripped through Smith's Camp trailer park in Midland, Ont., on Wednesday severely damaged 50 homes.

"What I witnessed this morning and last night ... is total devastation in Smith's mobile home park," Downer told CBC News Thursday.

"We have three or four industries that are severely hit. We have power out for about 9,000 people. It’s quite devastating."

Emergency crews blocked off several roads as teams worked to remove debris, while more than 30 crews were at work repairing downed lines and restoring power.  

Ontario Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci was scheduled to tour the community Thursday, and Downer said assistance was pouring into Midland from surrounding areas.

"I have terrific support from all of my neighbouring municipalities, support beyond belief," the mayor said.

Environment Canada confirmed Thursday that a tornado hit the central Ontario community Wednesday evening, citing eyewitness accounts and photos of the damage.

The exact timing and intensity of the tornado are not yet known. A team is being sent to assess the damage, and a final report will be issued at a later date, Environment Canada said in a statement.

Trailer park devastated

Ian Ferguson has a trailer at Smith's trailer park, which was hit hard by the storm.

"The trailer I live in is right in the centre of where everything got smashed up," he said.

Ferguson hid in the bathroom as the roaring wind ripped through the trailer park and campground. When the wind subsided, he looked out toward his neighbour's trailer. He said he opened the door and saw nothing but sticks and the sky.

People walk past destroyed trailer homes in the Smith's Trailer Park in Midland, Ont., on Wednesday. ((Carlo Allegri/Reuters))

"Where there was a room, there was nothing but rubble," he said. Several trailers had been hurled into the air, landing upside down, or on top of vehicles.

He said one neighbour had a broken leg and another woman was inside a trailer that had tipped in the storm.

"She was walking around, she had a cut on her face, so I got her to come over and sit down," he said.

Downer said Thursday that at least 70 mobile homes in the campground had been damaged beyond repair.

Across town, Tracy Stephenson arrived home from work after the storm hit to find trees blocking her laneway.

"When I got down there, there was trees down on several of the houses on my street and power lines down," she said. "Luckily in our area, no one was hurt."

Downer said the community actually practised for just such a scenario, holding monthly emergency management meetings and an annual exercise simulating a disaster.

"It's paid off, believe me," the mayor said. "We were prepared for this . … There is always glitches, but it certainly has helped us in our endeavours here today."

Midland is about 80 kilometres southwest of Huntsville, Ont., where the leaders of the G8 nations are meeting Friday and Saturday, before the G20 meeting in Toronto.

With files from CBC's Dave Seglins and The Canadian Press