Tornado recovery efforts continue, one month after the storm

One month after six tornadoes ripped through parts of Ottawa and Gatineau, the communities they hit are still reeling from the damage.

6 tornadoes touched down in parts of eastern Ontario and western Quebec

Several trees were downed and homes damaged when tornadoes touched down in parts of Ottawa last month. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

One month after tornadoes ripped through parts of Ottawa and Gatineau, the communities they hit are still reeling from the damage.

In total, six tornadoes touched down in parts of eastern Ontario and western Quebec, with the two most devastating twisters cutting straight through the national capital region.

Thirty houses in the small community of Dunrobin have been or will be demolished. In Gatineau, almost 1,700 housing units were damaged by the storm. In Arlington Woods, some residents likely won't be able to return to their homes for another year.

While recovery efforts continue, much more still needs to be done.

A Canadian flag flies in front of homes destroyed by a tornado in Ottawa's Dunrobin neighbourhood on Sept. 22, 2018. The storm tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in both Ottawa and Gatineau. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Dunrobin

The largest tornado first touched down in Dunrobin, a small community in Ottawa's west end.

The recovery efforts are likely to continue for the next year, said Greg Patacaik, president of the Dunrobin Community Association.

"You have to feel for these people," Patacaik said. "Imagine trying to rebuild your life from scratch and dealing with the reality that it's going to take a year and a half."

In addition to the homes being demolished, several business have also shut down. Fortunately, Dunrobin has seen "incredible" support flood in from volunteers and all three levels of government, Patacaik said.

Patacaik added there's still work to be done, from cutting large wood logs left over from the storm to helping residents file onerous insurance paperwork.

Still, he says there's a silver lining in how the community has come together.

"They have something in them that makes me feel very, very good. They all know each other now," he said. "There's some bright spots in all of this."

The CBC's Adrian Harewood gets a tour of Ottawa's Arlington Woods neighbourhood from Sean Devine, president of the local community association, one month after the area was hit by a tornado. 0:59

Arlington Woods

In the south Ottawa neighbourhood of Arlington Woods, where a second tornado touched down, residents are starting to move from immediate to long-term recovery efforts.

"Often times that recovery effort is more than just picking up branches — it's picking up people's spirits," said Sean Devine, president of the Trend-Arlington Community Association.

Several residents won't be able to return to their houses for another 10 months to a year, Devine said, and some homes will have to be demolished entirely.

Frustrating as that is, Devine said the loss of the community's large trees hits just as hard.

Sean Devine of the Trend Arlington Community Association shows the CBC's Adrian Harewood how badly Bruce Pit was damaged by a tornado in September 2018. 0:51

The tornado damaged or destroyed scores of 150-year-old trees in the neighbourhood, including a section of heavily wooded Bruce Pit, where the tornado first began its path of destruction.

"To people outside this neighbourhood, it might not sound that significant," Devine said.

"But to people that live here, the loss of these trees is a radical transformation of our neighbourhood that we can never really get back."

The community association is holding a musical procession Sunday that will begin at Bruce Pit and march through the streets of Arlington Woods. It's a memorial to what was lost, Devine said, but also a reminder that the crisis has made the community stronger.

"Once these houses get rebuilt and once we plant new trees, we're going to have a community that knows each other better, that feels closer together," Devine said.

"That is going to be an odd but wonderful benefit of this."

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, left, and Quebec Premier François Legault, right, tour areas damaged by September's tornado. (CBC)

Gatineau

The tornado that touched down in Dunrobin crossed the Ottawa River and struck Gatineau, tearing through the Mont-Bleu neighbourhood before fizzling out.

On Friday, newly elected Quebec Premier François Legault announced an additional $2 million for the Red Cross to bolster recovery efforts for tornado victims in Gatineau.

Legault also said he intends to introduce a new program for dealing with natural disaster recovery that will reimburse victims for their losses — though he didn't say how much would be made available.

"Right now, unfortunately, we don't have this answer," Legault said.

The money announced Friday brings the Quebec government's total commitment to $3 million since the storm.

Combined with an additional $1.6 million raised from private donations, that should be enough to assist victims in the longer term, said Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin.

"It's going to help us help a lot of people, for a longer period," Pedneaud-Jobin said, adding he'd been reassured by Legault that more money would be available if the city needed it.