Cross Country Checkup

From tornadoes to ice storms: Canadians share how they survived extreme weather

The tornadoes in Ottawa-Gatineau are hitting close to home for some Canadians who have survived extreme weather events.

Checkup callers open up about how they recovered from storms, floods and tornadoes

The tornado in Alonsa, Man. destroyed farmland owned by Natalie Gordon and her husband. (Submitted by Natalie Gordon)

The tornadoes that ravaged Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. on Friday are hitting close to home with some Canadians who have lived through extreme weather events.

The tornadoes destroyed several homes in Ottawa-Gatineau, and sent six people to local hospitals. Electrical infrastructure was also damaged in the communities, leaving about 100,000 homes without power.

This week on Cross Country Checkup, people from across the country called in to share their personal experiences surviving extreme weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding.

Below are some of their stories:

Reliving the ordeal

When Natalie Gordon heard the news out of Ottawa-Gatineau, she couldn't help but relive the trauma she experienced just over a month ago.

Natalie Gordon and her husband Richard survived a tornado one month ago near Alonsa, Man. (submitted by Natalie Gordon)

Gordon, who lives in Alonsa, Man., survived a tornado that hit her community Aug. 3.

That day, Gordon said she and her husband knew a storm was coming, because they had received severe weather alerts hours before.

At first, she thought the storm was going to be another "prairie thunderstorm." But after her dog started to bark hysterically, Gordon said she knew something bigger was coming.

"I could see this massive black cloud and a swirling. I recognized the shape," she said in an interview with host Duncan McCue.

When Natalie Gordon heard about the tornadoes in Ottawa-Gatineau, she couldn't help but relive the experience she had last month. In August, she and her husband survived a tornado that hit her community of Alonsa, Man. She told Cross Country Checkup host Duncan McCue more about her experience dealing with the aftermath. 12:18

Once she saw the incoming tornado, she and her husband ran down to the basement to take cover in a reinforced closet that served as a shelter.

Luckily, the tornado missed the couple. But unfortunately, their farmland, and several of the trees in the area were destroyed.

To this day, Gordon still thinks about what happened, adding she had trouble sleeping in the days after she survived the tornado.

Living to tell the tale 65 years later

Pat Allen remembers a tornado she survived 65 years ago "like yesterday."

In September 1953, a tornado hit her family's dairy farm in Orono, Ont.

Pat Allen, who survived a tornado when she was 13, remembers the incident like it was yesterday. (submitted by Pat Allen)

At the time, Allen, who now lives in Radium Hot Springs, B.C., was just 13 years old. She was home with her brother at the time when it started to rain heavily. Allen recalled the last thing she remembered was part of a tree coming through the window of her home and hitting her.

"We had a row of oak trees around our driveway and an actual branch or a limb from the tree came through the window, hit me on the back of the head [and] knocked me off the chesterfield on the floor," she said.

In September 1953, a tornado hit Pat Allen's family dairy farm in Orono, Ont. Allen, 76, was only 13 years old at the time. However, she remembers the experience vividly. 6:56

"I think my brother thought I was dead because when I woke up, he was yelling out the window, 'Help help help!'"

Now 76, Allen said the tornado made a big impact on her, especially because neighbours and strangers banded together to help each other out in the aftermath.

She added her heart goes out to those affected in Ottawa-Gatineau, especially as someone who has lived through a tornado.

The importance of emergency preparedness

Members of the Canadian Forces clear brush 60 kilometres south of Ottawa in Kemptville, Ont. on Jan. 12 1998 after people in the area had been a week without power. (Canadian Press)

Janet Lymer lived though the 1998 ice storm in Kingston, Ont. and flooding in Calgary in 2009 and 2013, so she is well prepared for natural disasters and emergencies.

Janey Lymer, survived both the Kingston ice storm in 1998 and the Calgary floods in 2009 and 2013. She now teaches people about emergency prepardness. (submitted by Janet Lymer)

"My husband teases me and says, 'These natural disasters tend to follow you,'" she said in an interview with Checkup.

At the time of the 1998 ice storm, Lymer and her husband were a young married couple with a one-year-old. To this day, the storm, which swept across southeastern Ontario and Quebec, remains one of the largest natural disasters in Canadian history.

"Our side of our crescent had power. The other side didn't. So we were running power cords across the street, and bringing the neighbours in for showers. That was quite a shock to live through the situation," Lymer said of the experience.

Now based in Calgary, Lymer said living through the ice storm better equipped her for other weather-related emergencies. In 2009 and 2013, she also lived through flooding in the city, but said she wasn't as heavily impacted by it.

Now, Lymer spends her time teaching members of her community how to prepare for an emergency in the event of an extreme weather event.

"Individually, I don't think we're prepared. I don't think we heed the warnings of having emergency boxes ready and reviewing that every year," she said.

Janet Lymer, who called Cross Country Checkup from Calgary, survived both the 1998 ice storm in Kingston, Ont. and flooding in 2009 and 2013. She now educates her community about emergency preparedness. 4:33

Written by Samantha Lui and Champagne Choquer. 


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