Hiding in a small hole, Lac Saint-Jean cyclist survives possible tornado

Langis Boudreault jumped off his bike and crawled into a small hole as a wall of wind uprooted trees around him.

What started as another Sunday bike ride for Langis Boudreault turned into an escape from a violent storm

Langis Boudreault was cycling near his home in the Saint-Bruno area of Lac Saint-Jean when violent winds uprooted trees around him as he took refuge in a small hole. (Langis Boudreault/Facebook)

Langis Boudreault, who often takes bike rides on Sunday afternoon, thought his Father's Day excursion would be no different — but his heart ended up pumping harder than usual.

The sky was dark and overcast, the resident of Lac Saint-Jean recalled, but since there was no rain, he didn't worry. 

Then everything changed.

"All of a sudden, I heard a bizarre sound, which made me a think it was an [all-terrain vehicle] coming toward me" Boudreault told CBC News.

He stopped his bike on the side of the path and waited for the ATV to appear and drive past him. The vehicle never arrived, but the sound intensified.

Boudreault kept pedaling, and that's when he encountered the source of the noise — a tornado in the making.

"I saw a wall of wind arriving in front of me," Boudreault said. "I realized it was the tornado coming toward me."

His experience came on the same day that several tornado warnings were issued by Environment Canada.

The federal agency could not immediately confirm that a tornado actually formed in the area where Boudreault was biking. Investigators are expected to gather more information at the site of the storm this week.

Strong winds destroyed a home in Hébertville, just a few kilometres from Mont Lac-Vert, the region of Lac Saint-Jean where Boudreault lives.

'I'm going to die today'

On his bike, Boudreault saw trees about 100 metres away being torn apart by the approaching winds.

That's when his survival instinct kicked in.

"I have to get out of here, I have no choice," he remembers thinking.

A residence in Hébertville, Que., was destroyed by strong winds Sunday. (Radio-Canada)
Boudreault found a small hole about a foot deep on the side of the path and curled himself into the fetal position.

With the wind howling, Boudreault braced himself for the worst. He grabbed onto some nearby branches, hoping he wouldn't get swept up.

"I thought, 'I'm going to get carried away by the wind,'" Boudreault said. "I'm going to die today."

Winds carve path of destruction

When the wind caught up to him, Boudreault said he heard trees around him begin to fall, one of them landing inches away from him as he continued to bundle up in the small hole.

The tempest lasted for less than a minute and Boudreault remembers branches piling up around him. As the noise died down, he surveyed his surroundings, and the damage inflicted on the forest around him.

"I'm still alive," Boudreault recalled thinking.

"My time hasn't come — my mission isn't over."

A chalet was destroyed by the heavy winds and possible tornado in Lac Saint-Jean Sunday. (Mélanie Patry/Radio-Canada)

As the storm receded, Boudreault stayed in his hiding place. His first instinct was to take his phone out of his pocket and call his wife.

She was in disbelief. He dialled back with a video app and showed her the remains of trees strewn around him.

"She didn't believe her eyes," Boudreault said.

Not only had Boudreault survived, but he was unscathed.

He believes the fallen trees lying near him stopped him from being carried off by the wind.

Time for a lottery ticket

After getting off the phone, Boudreault saw houses in the distance and called out to see if anyone else was around to help him get free of the debris.

A young man, who happened to be a friend of his son, came to his aid.

Boudreault's son often accompanies him on these Sunday rides, but because it was Father's day, he thought he might be busy organizing an event for that evening.

So Boudreault decided not to bother his son, and went out to Mont Lac-Vert alone.

"There's an angel somewhere that protected him," Boudreault said.

Before returning home, Boudreault decided to try his luck once more. He stopped at a convenience store and bought a lottery ticket.