Tornado 'sounded just like a freight train' as it hit Angus, Ont.

The tornado that tore through the community of Angus, Ont., on Tuesday night tore roofs off houses, tossed beds into backyards and sent barbecues flying through the air. Amazingly, no one was seriously hurt.

Damage estimated to be in the millions although no serious injuries reported

Angus tornado: Essa township police update

9 years ago
Duration 10:28
Details of what was destroyed, who can return to their homes and what comes next
The tornado that tore through the community of Angus, Ont., on Tuesday night tore roofs off houses, tossed beds into backyards and sent barbecues flying through the air.

The twister downed power lines, flipped over vehicles and damaged scores of homes.

Environment Canada estimates the tornado had wind speeds of up to 180 km/h as it tracked its way east from Angus over to Barrie.

Shortly before the tornado hit, Candice Fife had just driven home, hearing that Angus was under a severe thunderstorm warning.

Minutes later, she learned through a television report that Angus was under a tornado warning. The TV went out and Fife looked out her back window to see what was happening.

"Within split seconds, the trees were bending over, the wind was picking up, the rain it was like a torrential downpour," Fife told CBC News on Wednesday.

She rushed down to her basement along with her kids and her father.

"The lights started to flicker and as the tornado had hit, it sounded just like a freight train, the sound was deafening," said Fife.

'A miracle that nobody was hurt'

No one was seriously hurt, which was nothing short of miraculous, said Terry Dowdall, the mayor of Essa Township.

Dowdall told reporters today that about 100 homes were damaged, but only three minor injuries were reported.

Jim Wilson, the recently re-elected and long-time MPP in Simcoe-Grey, was among the officials to see the damage up close on Wednesday.

"We just saw devastation like I’ve never seen in my life," he told CBC News in an interview.

Crews were busy cleaning up from the damage on Wednesday.

The tornado struck at about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

"It was really a miracle that nobody was hurt," said Dowdall.

"I think it was the right time of day," said Essa Fire Department Chief Cynthia Tustin, calling it an "amazing piece of timing."

"People weren't asleep ... people were up and people were able to be aware of what's going on," she said.

Ontario Provincial Police Const. Kelly Daniels said the priority now is to ensure homes are safe enough for people to go back inside and retrieve needed personal items such as medication.

She said residents who have been displaced from their homes will be escorted by police and fire officials when they go inside and it will be done home by home.

"Now that we know everyone is safe, our job is to protect their property," said Daniels.

'Shock and devastation'

Premier Kathleen Wynne issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging the "shock and devastation" that those in Angus and other parts of Ontario that were blasted with severe thunderstorms, were feeling.

Wynne said she will visit Angus in the days ahead.

"I know that the people of Ontario are strong. The community has pulled together and is rallying around those who have been most impacted by the storm. This caring and compassion will help them as they rebuild."

More than 24 hours after the storms, some 2,300 Hydro One customers were still without electricity in southern Ontario.

The series of storms brought lashing rains and powerful winds, toppling branches, bringing down hydro lines and causing widespread outages.

Hydro One distributes power for most residents of rural Ontario. At the height of the storm, about 46,000 of its customers were without power.

Toronto Hydro, which supplies the Greater Toronto Area, reported that 1,000 customers were in the dark on Wednesday morning, down from 12,000 at the height of the storm.

Shortly before 4:30 p.m., Toronto Hydro reported that power had been restored to all customers affected by Tuesday’s storm.

Angus gets worst of it

The morning after the tornado struck Angus, the CBC's Natalie Kalata was among the reporters to visit the scene.

Kalata said the area is strewn with debris and there's damage everywhere.

"There are sides of homes that are completely missing," Kalata reported Wednesday on CBC Radio. "You can see inside bedrooms and kitchens."

Local residents all had stories to tell about the tornado that took only a few minutes to tear through the town.

Robert Normandeau had been out a golf course. He came home to find trees on the road and emergency vehicles

His wife was at home when the tornado struck.

"My wife, she didn’t know it was a tornado until things started to fly," he told CBC News in an interview on Wednesday.

Tables and a neighbour’s barbecue flew past the window, his wife said.

Kevin Thompson came back from the dentist to learn that a tornado had torn shingles off his home and tossed an Adirondack chair through his kitchen wall.

"It was sort of surreal, because when you pulled into the subdivision, the upper part was great, and we saw people standing there pointing down towards our home," he told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

"You start looking up the street and down the street and you see houses that are totally gone and nothing there."

State of emergency

A state of emergency remains in effect in the Township of Essa, which includes Angus. 

Damage from the storm is estimated in the millions of dollars.

In one example of the tornado's destructive power, the entire second storey of a home in Angus was torn off and shifted several houses away. 

Dowdall said the community has pulled together to help with the cleanup. As one example, he said a local tree company is working for free to clear fallen limbs from roads.

"We're usually a fairly quiet town — to see the overwhelming support is quite unbelievable," said Dowdall.

"We had a shelter last night set up in the community. Nobody had to stay overnight, they all had places to go."

The Bank of Montreal announced Wednesday that it will implement a "financial tornado relief program" that will allow affected clients in Angus and Essa Township to defer mortgage and personal loan payments.

With files from the CBC's Natalie Kalata, Nil Koksal, Stephanie Matteis and The Canadian Press