Kathleen Wynne tours tornado-hit Angus, Ont.
ESSA TOWNSHIP, Ont. — Against a backdrop of broken pines, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke of her tour through the path of the tornado's destruction in Essa Township.
Wynne addressed reporters after her tour of the badly damaged Angus neighbourhood, saying she had been caught off-guard by the devastation wrought by the EF2 tornado that swept across the county Tuesday night, leaving some 300 people homeless in its aftermath.
“I often think we get kind of inured to photographs of damage, but to actually see the debris and lack of safety and the community whose lives have been disrupted is very compelling,” Wynne said.
Wynne took a walk through the broken glass, wood and nails.
“As we walked around, people's belongings are still hanging in their closets and their furniture is everywhere. It's a very traumatic thing to have happen. So we want to make sure we do everything in our power to get people back home.”
Although Essa Township has declared a state of emergency, Wynne has said she's not able to announce a specific funding allocation to the township until crews assess the damage and determine what is covered by the private homeowners' insurance and what is publicly owned.
An area where she was able to make an immediate impact was through the province's Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), which is responsible for turning the power back on when Hydro One finishes reconnecting houses in Angus.
Mayor Terry Dowdall said he was relieved by the premier's ability to cut through the red tape at the ESA.
“That'll expedite people getting into their houses. The ones that can get into their houses will get in quicker,” he said.
He said Wynne had remarked how the photos she'd seen hadn't done the wrecked homes justice.
“She was in awe,” he said.
Essa Township's fire chief Cynthia Ross Tustin confirmed to Wynne that the Mennonite Disaster Service crew had arrived and were well on their way to clearing debris.
Tustin has led township officials’ co-ordination efforts with insurance adjusters, building inspectors, hydro workers and Simcoe County staff to ensure residents are informed every step of the way. She said they will continue their work to keep homeowners aware of the schedules and work crews on the ground.
“It's hour 54 since the storm,” Tustin said as the premier left Angus. "We're having town meetings each day to keep the people informed, and we're taking their suggestions and implementing them. No one's done this before, so in some cases we're flying by the seat of our pants. We've had a group of people who are in that 4 p.m. town hall meeting, everybody's upset and everybody's impacted equally.”
Later Friday afternoon, Environment Canada confirmed that a second tornado touched down near Stroud, about 15 km east of Angus, moments later.
It was an EF1 tornado with winds between 150 and 175 km/h, meteorologist Rosemary Tabory said.
"It moved a 12-metre-by-15-metre drive shed about 70 metres. It picked it up and tossed into a farmhouse," Tabory said. "There were also a number of mature trees snapped off or uprooted."