Fierce winds blamed for injuries across Ottawa

Ferocious winds expected to reach up to 100 km/h were blamed for several injuries reported in the capital on Thursday, as the wicked weather toppled trees in the capital region, knocked out power to thousands of homes and caused traffic mayhem.

Strong gusts snapped trees, knocked out power for thousands

Part of a tree broken in high winds lies across the road blocking the entrance to a funeral home in Ottawa. (Courtesy Chris Skaarup)

Ferocious winds expected to reach up to 100 km/h were blamed for several injuries reported in Ottawa on Thursday, as the wicked weather toppled trees in the capital region, knocked out power to thousands of homes and caused traffic mayhem.

Emergency responders were dealing with several calls for people hurt by the conditions, including two separate incidents in which elderly women were blown to the ground, causing severe head injuries. Both were in serious condition in hospital.

Gusts expected to reach 100 km/h blew signs, broke utility poles and cut off power for thousands of homes in the Ottawa region. ((Courtesy Giacomo Panico))

Another female pedestrian was in serious but stable condition in hospital after a broken tree snapped and fell onto her legs near Parkdale Avenue and Hamilton Street, fracturing both of her legs.

A wind warning issued by Environment Canada is in effect for many parts of Ottawa, Gatineau and the Ottawa Valley. Hydro Ottawa is reporting several power outages across the area, including Gloucester, Goulbourn, Kanata, Nepean and Ottawa.

Winds near 95 km/h

Winds were gusting near 95 km/h in the afternoon — a speed classified as tropical storm force.

"Not a description we're used to hearing in Ottawa," said CBC News Ottawa's Ashley Burke, adding that the winds were so strong that they tore off chunks from the roofs of some buildings.

The Ottawa Paramedic Service also transported pedestrians to hospital who fell or were hit by flying debris, as well as one man at a construction site on Gladstone Avenue injured by a falling fence.

Hydro crews are on the scene assessing the damage. Hydro Ottawa said that in the early afternoon, about 20,000 customers in the service territory in Ottawa were without electricity, with the city's west end being most affected. Those areas include Kanata, Stittsville, Munster, Richmond and Beaverbrook.

Winds affect flights

The Ottawa airport reports that four flights scheduled to land in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon were diverted to Toronto due to the high winds.

Airport officials are advising people to check with their airlines to see when those flights will arrive in Ottawa.

There have also been several other cancelled flights due to adverse weather conditions in other parts of North America.

Broken trees were spotted on Merivale Road and newspaper boxes had also blown over.

Trapped in car under tree

A woman and two children were trapped inside one family van in Aylmer after a large tree fell, crushing part of the car. Another woman who managed to escape alerted people to the other passengers, who were rescued and treated for minor injuries on the scene.

"There was this woman that came out yelling, 'My children are in the car,'" said Karl Jorssen, a passerby. "We looked inside. Me and two other workmen helped remove the children from the car."

Elsewhere in Aylmer, trees were completely uprooted, with one landing on Tessa Powell's roof.

"When I drove up, I saw the emergency truck and a big tree on my roof," she said.

High volume of emergency calls

Police fielded more than 25 calls in the hour after the storm hit, shortly after 2 p.m.

A car sits under a tree blown over by severe winds on Thursday in Gatineau. ((Courtesy Jacques Gauthier))

At one point, according to Ottawa fire officials, at least 75 trucks had to be dispatched across the city, mostly due to calls reporting fallen power lines. Firefighters asked for patience from residents due to the volume of calls they're responding to.

The fire department also said the winds and downed electrical wires could be responsible for a roof fire that spread, causing an estimated $250,000 in damage to a two-storey home in the Alta Vista neighbourhood.

Police also closed the intersection of Bank Street and Laurier Avenue in the city's downtown. There had been reports that an outdoor sign for a nearby Bank of Montreal had crashed to the ground, and police warned about the dangers of debris blowing from other buildings.

Downed power lines hazardous

Traffic was interrupted everywhere due to malfunctioning traffic signals swaying in the wind. Drivers proceeded carefully to manoeuvre around uprooted trees, recycling bins and election campaign posters tossed about the streets.   

Four students in Aylmer were treated for minor neck and back injuries after a wall fell down on Rue de Vernon, due to the severe weather.

Jack Donovan, a Kanata resident, marvelled at the aftermath of the gusts. A tree lay against the roof of a neighbouring home.

"Boy oh boy, that's scary," he said. "If any of the trees came down, like from the bottom like that one, landed on the house, you would be worried about safety for sure."

Winds to diminish in evening

Drivers who encounter malfunctioning traffic signals in some areas were reminded to treat the intersections as four-way stops.

Susan Barrett, a spokesperson for Hydro Ottawa, also cautioned people to avoid downed utility poles. People are advised to stay at least 30 metres away.

Drivers were reminded to exercise caution on the roads after trees, recycling bins and signs were whipped by the winds into the streets. ((Sean O'Flaherty))

"If customers see or notice falling power lines, obviously they should stay a good distance away and call 911," Barrett said. "They never know if the power is live or not."

The winds began to diminish later in the afternoon and by 5 p.m., they were down to around 48 km/h.

CBC News Ottawa's climatologist, Ian Black, said that "while we're not quite out of the woods, at least we're not seeing the extremely damaging wind gusts seen earlier."

By the time most residents have gone to bed around midnight, he added, winds should be reduced to light breezes.