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Extreme winds fell trees, knock out power in southern Ontario

Craig Glover, QMI Agency

Neighbours talk with a man on a stretcher after helping pull him from under a downed tree on Tecumseh Avenue as high winds caused damage across London on Monday November 24, 2014.  The man was taken to hospital by paramedics with non-life-threatening injuries.
CRAIG GLOVER The London Free Press / QMI AGENCY

Neighbours talk with a man on a stretcher after helping pull him from under a downed tree on Tecumseh Avenue as high winds caused damage across London on Monday November 24, 2014. The man was taken to hospital by paramedics with non-life-threatening injuries. CRAIG GLOVER The London Free Press / QMI AGENCY

LONDON, Ont. — Raging winds wreaked havoc on southern Ontario Monday night.

The winds lashed southwestern Ontario with dangerous gusts up to 100 km/h that triggered an Environment Canada wind warning and left many in the region facing the prospect of major cleanups Tuesday.

An early sign of the mayhem to come hit when the gusts barrelled through Chatham-Kent, flattening a giant sign that towered six metres above a gas bar. It crashed down on a busy pedestrian crossing.

"I could see the wind pick up and (the sign) was rocking really hard," gas station attendant Jesse Brown said. "There was a loud noise and it snapped at the base and crushed the (gas station's) propane holder."

Across the region, giant trees snapped like toothpicks under the windy blasts, bringing down power lines and leaving thousands in London, the Stratford area and parts of Lambton County without electricity.

Many traffic lights in London were knocked out, some ripped from their metal supports.

There were widespread road closings across the region as downed trees and power lines made routes impassable.

Mark Mishriky was momentarily sent flying into the air while holding onto the canopy-like cladding dangling from the side of his building in downtown London, after the gusts tore it from the building.

A nearby firefighter who was helping at the scene came rushing to his aid.

Another business alerted Mishriky that part of the large, metal-framed banner had come loose from the former Burlesque Nightclub, snapping a lamp post in half.

A tree was toppled by strong winds about 3:30 p.m. in London, sending one man to hospital after he was hit by the upper branches, a neighbour reported.

Another man, raking at his home, was also taken to hospital after he was hit by part of a tree.

Neighbours rushed to pull him from under a large limb, saying the tree trunk only missed him by a few feet.

The roaring winds hit amid a spike in temperatures that flash-melted last week's snow from the season's first storm, causing minor flooding that added to aggravation for drivers dodging wind-blown pylons and signs still up for late-season roadwork.

As many as 12,000 Londoners were without power Monday, but only about 1,000 remained in the dark late Monday.

Further east, in Woodstock, a tractor-trailer was blown over. Nobody was injured.

In Brantford, where some 3,000 residents were left without power, a 200-year-old tree in King's Ward Park fell and crushed two parked vehicles.

"I was in my studio at the time," artist Holly Ounapuu said. "I heard this crack and the next thing I knew, these branches flew by my window, the tree fell over and hit the vehicles."

It was just as parents had come to pick up children from the school.

"It's a miracle nobody was seriously injured,” she said."Scary stuff.”

— With files from Michael-Allan Marion


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