Tornado rips through campground north of Montreal

Flipped vehicles, downed power lines, snapped trees, and gazebos tossed around like backyard playsets are being cleared by those who found themselves in a tornado's path Thursday evening, in the province's Lanaudière region.

'It was pretty real last night,' said man whose property was in tornado's path

A man removes fallen branches following a storm at a campground in Saint-Roch-de-l'Achigan, Que., near Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Flipped vehicles, downed power lines, snapped trees and gazebos tossed around like backyard playsets are now being cleared by Quebecers who found themselves in a tornado's path Thursday evening.

Robert Desnoyers and his wife Ginette Corbeil are among those who suffered property damage at Camping Horizon, about 50 kilometres north of Montreal.

"Hang onto your shorts, it got real windy — in 10 to 15 seconds trees came down," Desnoyers said.

Friday morning, Desnoyers, 74, was hard at work clearing branches off his wife's car. 

"It got pretty real last night," he said.

Robert Desnoyers and his wife Ginette Corbeil were clearing their property Friday morning, and despite their frustration, they ultimately brushed off the damage as 'just material stuff.' (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

The couple came to the area in the spring, built a deck and bought a new $1,800 gazebo that they put together.

But now they said they have to start over because of the mess left by the tornado — including a neighbour's gazebo ending up on top of theirs and bending it.

Winds up to 175 km/hr

After investigating this morning, Environment Canada concluded the violent storm was, in fact, an EF-1 tornado, with winds up to 175 km/hr.

According to the weather agency, the tornado was about 200 metres in diameter and tore through the Lanaudière region at around 6:30 p.m.

Camping Horizon resident France Girard said things are generally all right in her home since it's powered by a generator. (Lauren McCallum/CBC)

Hours before the storm swept through the southern part of the province, the weather agency already knew all the ingredients were present to cause a tornado — heat, humidity and "lifting" caused by a cold front.

At the storm's height, more than 100,000 Hydro-Québec customers were without electricity. By noon Friday, that number had gone down to about 14,000.

More than 50 teams worked to restore power Thursday evening, and others were added during the night.

Dozens of trailers damaged

Residents at the campground are considering themselves lucky that so few of them were injured.

Most of them had emptied out of the campsite before the storm hit so they could attend a public consultation about a small airport being planned in the region.

Phone calls started coming in about the devastation at their homes, and they left the meeting to check things out.

"Trailers flipped over, trees came down," said Alexandre Caron, the owner of Camping Horizon. He said he has seen strong winds before, but never like this.

Roughly 40 trailers on the property were damaged.

"We were scared when we saw that. We were lucky, despite it all," said campground resident France Girard.

There was only one injury at the campground — a man who was in his trailer during the storm sustained an ankle injury and was taken to hospital.

Caron said there may have been more injuries if most of the residents hadn't been at the meeting.

He said when Hydro-Québec fully restores power to the area, they'll "be up and running."

"We're going to put our gloves on and start cleaning up."

According to Environment Canada, tornados aren't exceptional at this time of year — half a dozen hit Quebec annually, with July being the biggest month. 


Elysha Enos


Elysha Enos is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

With reporting by CBC's Lauren McCallum and files from Radio-Canada


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