A tornado descended on the southwestern Ontario community of Leamington so quickly early Sunday that some residents barely had time to get out of bed before it left a path of destruction.
“We heard some noise we were going to get out of our bedroom upstairs and run down stairs. You’re supposed to go to the basement and try and be safe, but we didn’t make it out of our bedroom,” said Phil Ingratta.
“It was quick, probably a couple of minutes not even that. It was just unbelievable,” Ingratta told Leamington radio station CHYR of the storm.
The full force of the storm hit the community around 3 a.m. Environment Canada said a tornado did in fact touch down. The F1 twister, with wind speeds between 120 and 180 km/h, was followed by a downburst of wind and rain — a powerful current without the rotation.
Ingratta’s barn was destroyed. His car was squashed. His fence flew across the street.
It was much the same story in other parts of the municipality. Trees crashed through roofs, hydro lines were split in two and fences ripped apart.
Leamington’s deputy mayor Rob Schmidt issued a state of emergency about three hours after the storm. While officials said there are no injuries, the damage is extensive.
“Trees are everywhere, all over the place. It’s like a bomb hit it,” said Anne Miskovsky the emergency communications officer.
Power outages are widespread and crews are working feverishly to restore electricity. Police are controlling the storm damaged area, erecting barricades to keep people away.
The building department is also scouring the area, moving from house to house to make sure no one is in an unsafe situation, said Miskovsky.
The storm started building late Saturday night as Environment Canada issued several tornado warnings for the area throughout the night and into the early morning hours of Sunday.
The largest stretch of damage ran for three kilometres along Fraser Road and Bevel Line.
Miskovsky described the damage as “mind boggling.”
“Huge trees are severed down the middle and are laying on top of the roads or houses. Hydro poles have been sheared in half and are just lying here,” she said, as she tried to paint a picture of the wreckage.
Picnic tables float in Lake Erie outside the badly damaged marina, said Miskovsky. The patio is slanted, leaning towards the left.
“It looks like someone drove into the bottom of it,” said Miskovsky.
She said large trees — planted more than 25 year ago and had just recently matured enough to provide shade to the area — have been sliced in half.
Miskovsky said the municipal park, which recently received infrastructure money that helped pave roads and provide lights to the park, has also been hit hard.
But despite the destruction, some people expressed relief, because no one was injured.
“We’re truly blessed because that tree is laying in our son’s bed right now,” said Leamington resident Paul Verheyen.
A tree crashed through the roof of his cottage Saturday night, but his family left before the storm struck.
“We weren’t here,” said Verheyen, “My wife talked me into leaving. I wanted to stay,” he told CHYR.
The Red Cross has opened up a shelter for people in a nearby recreation complex.
Kimbell said about 52 millimetres of rain fell in the nearby Windsor area, and 44 millimetres or rain fell in Harrow.
A significant low pressure systems was tracking across the area, said Kimbell, as he tried to explain what may have caused the burst of blustery weather.
He also said the southwestern part of the province was under a threat of significant weather, due to the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.