Mirabel suffers millions in tornado damage
Published Saturday, May 26, 2012 6:04PM EDT
MONTREAL - Damage caused by a ferocious storm Friday evening is said to be in the millions after a tornado tore roofs off and knocked electrical poles to the ground in Mirabel, north of Montreal.
A dozen buildings were seriously damaged in St. Benoit, including farms, farm equipment, a silo, homes and a small church. Roofs were blown off, windows smashed and trees uprooted. No injuries were reported.
Electricity went down when 35-40 electricity poles hit the ground under what Environment Canada officials have classified as an F-1 tornado, which carried winds of 150 km/h
"It could have been worse if it were in the city. Houses are spaced further apart here, so the impact was serious for the people involved but there are open fields, so the impact was probably lessened," said Environment Canada representative Rene Heroux.
And yet the damage done was devastating for many in the town.
"I've been here 40 years," said Mirabel farmer Pierre Rochon. "Working to improve my farm and in less than a minute all that I worked for has been destroyed."
The brevity of the experience belied its lasting damage, as another one also noted.
"It lasted maybe three minutes. We used all our force to keep the doors closed but the wind was just too strong, in the end we took our two children into the basement," said Mirabel resident Johanne Aubin.The tornado also hit nearby Chatham and Brownsburg.
"On average during summer we have six tornadoes in Quebec and most of them are F0 to F1, so of course this was the first one of the summer," said Environment Canada's Heroux.
Mirabel Mayor Hubert Meilleur estimated that the area suffered millions in damages and plans to ask the province for compensation.
Mirabel residents were particularly upset by the loss of the 200-year-old Presbyterian church, which was recently renovated and seen by some as a symbol of the town's resilience and history.
"I find it very sad, with all that's been damaged, We lose certain parts of our heritage with this kind of tornado," said Pierre-Paul Meloche of the City of Mirabel.
But the residents were already setting out on the massive job of rebuilding their town just a few hours after the storm blew through.
"It takes a lot of muscle to clean up all of this, it can't be done alone," said Mirabel resident Lorraine Corbeil.
Mirabel sits 50 kilometers north of Montreal and is reportedly Canada's fastest-growing city. It is home to 42,000, about 2,000 of whom live in the St. Benoit area.
Storm also pulls plug on thousands
Over 30,000 Quebecers had lost electricity as of 11 p.m. Friday night following a series of storms and heavy winds, possibly even tornadoes, that ripped through the province.
By Saturday at noon over 90 percent of those homes were plugged back in.
Hydro Quebec sent about 40 teams to repair the broken poles, each team comprising between two and four people.
Subcontractors were also employed in the replacing of poles, which take a couple of hours each to replace, according to Hydro Quebec representative Marie-Noel Lacroix.
The Laurentians had about 10,000 homes without power Friday night, while about 10,500 had lost electricity in the Outaouais region.
Some of the towns hardest hit were St-Jerome which saw 2,000 homes without electricity, Gore 1,500; Chelsea 1,244 and Val des Monts with 1,800.
Closer to Montreal, Chateauguay saw 2,600 without power and 1,134 in Mirabel were forced into candlelight, according to Hydro Quebec representative Sophie Lamoureux.
Environment Canada had issued a tornado and severe thundershower warning for major swathes of the province between around 8 and 10 p.m. Friday.
The tornado warning issued by Environment Canada initially identified areas including Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, Varennes, Chateauguay and La Prairie at risk.
The trouble began when a pair of severe thunderstorms, one in Laval, another in Vaudreuil were spotted at around 8:30 p.m. both moving eastward, carrying winds at about 80 km/h.
The warning included the threat of winds over 100 km/h and hail and heavy lightning.
The warnings were lifted just before 10 p.m. Friday.People enjoying the Friday evening nightlife in downtown Montreal, as well as a contingent of protesters demonstrating for the 32nd straight night, scrambled to find cover during the storm.
However some hearty souls appeared undeterred and kept walking straight through the downpour.
With a file from The Canadian Press