Tornado rips through Eastern Townships village, leaving residents shaken, property damaged

Environment Canada says this is the sixth tornado to hit the province so far this year.

Environment Canada says six tornadoes have hit the province so far this year

Several Saint-Mathias-de-Bonneterre residents said they had never seen anything like the tornado that hit the small town Monday. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)

Residents of Saint-Mathias-de-Bonneterre, a village in the municipality of Saint-Isidore-de-Clifton southeast of Sherbrooke, are picking up the pieces after a tornado ripped through the area Monday afternoon, bringing winds stronger than 100 km/h. 

Environment Canada has confirmed it was a tornado, but is still in the process of investigating its intensity. 

"We want to analyze satellite imagery that we will have in the next few days," said Jean-Philippe Bégin, a meteorologist with the agency.

According to Bégin, preliminary results have classified the tornado as an EF0 — the lowest level on the scale. That means wind gusts reached between 105 and 135 km/h. 

"It's considered weak. … But we don't want to minimize the impact because some people might have seen some pretty strong damage," Bégin said. 

According to initial estimates by Environment Canada, the tornado tore through narrow path that stretched two kilometres. 

Jennifer Bolduc was one of many residents who said they feared for their lives when the twister hit.

She was inside when the wind howled through her home and blew out a window.

"I kept asking myself what was happening," she said. "Outside, I saw trees [on the ground]." 

Danika Bradley was also shaken. Bradley lives in nearby Sawyerville, Que., but had gone to visit her mother-in-law. 

She was on the ground floor of the home at the time and recorded a video just as a tree fell, crushing her car. She says she felt the whole house start to tremble. 

"I told myself that I couldn't stay upstairs with the kids. The house was shaking. I took the children and the dog and we took refuge downstairs," she said. 

A few minutes later, everything was over. Her spouse and mother-in-law arrived shortly afterward and were shocked when they saw the aftermath. 

According to the Saint-Isidore-de-Clifton fire department, no one was injured. 

"There were people in a state of shock, who were crying," said Daniel Fortier, the director of the fire department. 

"We were stunned. We saw roofs torn up, trees in the power lines, in the street, on cars." 

Fortier said he has never seen anything like it in 32 years on the job.

According to Saint-Isidore-de-Clifton Mayor Yann Vallières, the town is now dealing with tens of thousands of dollars in damages. 

"It's the first time I've seen winds like that. We're used to strong winds, but never to that extent," said Vallières. 

He said it will take years for the area's greenery to grow back. 

A separate tornado hit Saint-Roch-de-Mékinac in Quebec's Mauricie region Monday afternoon, but caused little damage. 

According to Environment Canada, there have been six tornadoes in Quebec so far this year. That's about the annual average for the province.

With files from Radio-Canada


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