Luckily MP Richard Cannings’ Ottawa residence wasn’t in the swath of destruction carved out by a trio of tornadoes that touched down Friday in Ottawa.
However, like a quarter of a million other people in the region, the member for South Okanagan-West Kootenay was without power and water at his apartment for much of the weekend.
“I just finally got my hot water back this morning so I’m happy,” said Cannings in a telephone interview Monday. “The tornadoes were quite a ways away from me, maybe a half-hour drive but the actual power outages were much more widespread. Most of downtown Ottawa and everything out west was impacted and there was no power on Parliament Hill all weekend.
“It was a bit of a reminder about how close to not having all the modern conveniences was when I had to cycle for a couple of kilometres to be able to go to the bathroom. It’s one thing when you’re out in the boonies but when you’re downtown in a major city looking for a place to go to the bathroom or find some power or find a coffee or anything like that and you have thousands of people doing the same it can be quite disruptive.”
When the storm hit Friday, Cannings was actually at a function at the glass-encased TwentyTwo ballroom on the 22nd floor of the Westin Ottawa hotel.
“We have this new phone warning system so my phone went off with this big alert so we knew this was going to be a big storm,” he recalled. “We had a spectacular view of the storm, although we couldn’t see the details of the tornadoes. It was a big storm, it came through and belted us with slashing rain for half an hour, just sort of blackness but I was inside and didn’t see the full force of it.”
After the worst had passed he walked home to his apartment just over a mile away to find the water and power not working.
On Saturday, he headed downtown where there was a number of commercial operations that still had power and where others like himself were congregating.
“It was one of these things where you actually talk to the people on the elevator, talk to people on the street,” said Cannings. “So as they say it’s something that brings the community together. The businesses that had power were very co-operative.
“I spent a lot of Saturday in the lobby of the Lord Elgin Hotel. It was a ways away from me but it was a big hotel that had power and I could plug my phones in.”
He added the attached Starbucks had a line up out the door for much of the day. One employee he talked to had been there from 6 a.m. and was still at work at 6 p.m.
After power and water were returned he planned Sunday to have a long hot shower to get ready for Monday.
“It was then I realized there was no hot water so I had to boil water and pour it into the tub and have a bath,” he said with a laugh. “Not having power is one thing, not having water is much more of a problem.”
As of Monday morning there were still several thousand people without power and clean up was continuing. Schools and a number of government offices were also closed for the day.
At its height, two of the three twisters, touched down about 90 minutes apart, the first hitting about 5 p.m. EST., ripped apart homes, uprooted trees and flattened barns cutting a trail of destruction about a kilometre wide and 40 kilometres long.
Ranked as an E/F3 tornado, winds reached speeds of 260 kilometres and hour.
There were no reported deaths however nearly 20 people were taken to hospital and hundreds of homes were evacuated.
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