Katrina Clarke | June 18, 2014 | National Post
When Candice Fife saw red, swirling clouds through the kitchen window of her Angus home, she immediately herded her two young children and father into the basement.
Just as she closed the basement door, a two-by-four shot through her kitchen window, slicing into the space where she stood just moments before.
“The house was shaking. The noise was just deafening. It sounded like a freight train,” Ms. Fife said. “It was almost like a hollow sound, you know when your ears are plugged. It felt like that.”
Miraculously, no one was seriously injured in the tornado that ripped through the subdivision Tuesday evening, lopping the top floors and roofs off houses and strewing mattresses, sheds and fences across backyards. The mayor declared a state of emergency after the tornado hit.
“I’m still in shock I think,” said June Lais, 63, who lives in a home on Stonemount Crescent, one of the hardest hit communities in Angus, about an hour’s drive north of Toronto.
Ms. Lais recalled sitting in her kitchen Tuesday, chatting with her husband who just returned home from work. She was keeping an eye on the weather and noticed that the heavy rain falling in her backyard started “twirling.”
Next, she saw the wind lift her neighbour’s shed up in the air, where it “burst apart.”
“When we saw the shed it was time to move,” she said. “All I could do was hug my husband. I said ‘I’m so frightened.’”
On Wednesday, she surveyed her street’s damage from her front porch, where she sat with sunglasses on her head, a flashlight resting by her side — she had no power — and sipping a lime Diet Coke.
Across the street, one house was missing its top floor, another its entire roof. One home had an entire wall ripped off. The bedroom was exposed to the outdoors and a bed with pillows resting on it was visible from the road.
“At this point, now that we know all the residents are safe, their property is our main concern,” said Kelly Daniels, Ontario Provincial Police constable with the Nottawasaga detachment.
The tornado, with wind speeds near 180 kilometres an hour, damaged up to 100 homes and left 300 homeless, she said. Those affected are either staying with friends or family or at the community centre.
The main damage occurred along a one-kilometre stretch in a subdivision.
“In front of me, I’m seeing a swing set that’s tangled up around patio furniture with a dryer on top of it. That’s just not something you would normally see,” Const. Daniels said, standing in the backyard of the hardest-hit homes.
She pointed to a home with smashed windows and said police think it was hit by a roof from two houses away. The roof is now sitting in the backyard. Along with it are twisted bicycles, mattresses and broken fences, debris that marks the tornados path that tore through less than 24 hours earlier. Green grass and manicured gardens peeked out from underneath piles of patio furniture, eavestroughs and overturned basketball nets.
One sign, buried in the debris read, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
For Tannen Roy, recalling Tuesday’s tornado brings tears to her eyes. She was driving from Barrie to Angus when the storm hit.
“My heart started pounding, like ‘oh my God, oh my God, I’m going right into it,’ ” she said. “It got really bad. I could hardly see in front of me. I would have to basically get off my seat a little bit and look straight down and I could kind of see the lines and two headlights in front of me.”
But instead of pulling over, she thought of her two daughters, ages nine and 11, who were at home with Ms. Roy’s boyfriend.
“I had to get to my girls,” she said with tears in her eyes. “[I was] just thinking, they need me. I can’t go now.”
The drive was so tense that on Wednesday, she still had a cramp in her leg.
Despite the presence of portable toilets in the street, generators in driveways and houses with the tops lopped off, the community appeared calm on Wednesday. On Stonemount Crescent, neighbours congregated on driveways and front porches while children rode bicycles on sidewalks and played soccer on front lawns.
The community is home to a mixture of seniors, young families and people who work in Barrie, Toronto or at nearby Canadian Forces Base Borden.
“There’s nothing you can do now… Just pick up the pieces and be thankful no one was injured,” said Randy Harris, a retired mail carrier whose roof and car were damaged. “Damage is done. It’s all repairable.”
The community’s MP, Dr. Kellie Leitch, and MPP Jim Wilson stopped by the community Wednesday. Premier Kathleen Wynne announced she will visit the area in the coming days.
Building inspectors were still walking through roped-off homes Wednesday. While the extent of the damage is still hard to assess, Const. Daniels said damage costs are “absolutely” estimated to be in the millions.