Environment Canada confirms an F1 tornado touched down near Windsor, Ont. Wednesday evening damaging more than a dozen homes and left three people injured.
An eyewitness reported the tornado in LaSalle, a suburb of Windsor at 7:10 p.m. ET as a violent storm whipped through the southwestern Ontario community.
Environment Canada’s Geoff Coulson said two teams are on the ground – one from the weather office and one from Western University – assessing the damage and determining if there was a second tornado.
Officials said winds reached between 135 to 175 kilometres per hour and was the strongest tornado since Goderich in 2011 which was an F3.
Coulson confirms there was no warning issued to the public as there was no indication that a tornado was imminent.
Witnesses said the winds blew the roofs off homes and uprooted multiple trees.
“I’ve seen the front of buildings torn off, transport-size pieces of roof hanging from trees and across power lines, hydro poles laid down like matchsticks,” said Windsor resident Larry Leede.
David and Debra Andrukonis were outside their home at the time when a gust of wind plowed into their garage.
“All of a sudden my husband had grabbed me, threw me on the floor at the back of the house and said tornado,” Debra said.
“As soon as he said it, I started crying. All of a sudden it went still, then things started flying around in the garage. It was like being in a blender. Everything was hitting us.”
The couple, who had been living in their Windsor home for 27 years, said they are lucky to be alive.
“All I remember is grabbing her and pulling her to the back of the garage and trying to protect her the best I could,” said David. “Every second seemed like minutes and hours, you don’t truly feel the nightmare you’re going through.”
Homeowner Grey Tremblay said he was watching TV in his living room when he heard a big roar and hid in his bedroom.
“When I heard the roar, I knew what it was. I slammed this door, the other door and ran into my bedroom, jumped across the bed and hid in between the wall and the bed,” he said.
“It was just a great big vibration. When people think of freight train it goes ‘Woo-woo-woo.’ It’s just a great big rumble.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said about 15 homes had been damaged in the storm and that the Red Cross and city agencies are working with a local hotel to open up rooms for residents who aren’t able to return home.
“The folks that don’t have with other friends and family, they’re taking that opportunity to go to that hotel,” said Dilkens.
The mayor also said city crews are in the process of clearing debris from major roads and arteries.
“We’re trying to clear the roads, set things back to normal so that these folks can get their insurers in here and start with repairs.”
City officials say the three people injured were working at a nearby manufacturing plant when the storm hit and only suffered minor injuries.
Dilkens said the city is fortunate the tornado hit between 7 and 8 o’clock in the evening and not during rush hour.
“Had this happened a couple of hours earlier during rush hour, with the material flying over the expressway that is very busy during rush hour, flying almost a kilometre away, that metal flying could have hit a number of vehicles and had a much more devastating consequence,” Dilkens said.
Tornado in windsor pic.twitter.com/IggObEdwfW
— Andrew Chisesi (@AndrewChisesi) August 24, 2016
“We’re just trying to assess what needs to be done to make sure those folks are taken care of by the way of accommodation for this evening.”
Dilkens also told a late night news briefing at a city fire station that three people suffered non-life threatening injuries.
“There were three people transported to hospital … the injuries were reported as not life-threatening, not critical injuries, but they were taken to hospital as a precaution.”
Windsor homeowner Shannon Shaw said she saw a funnel cloud near her home and immediately sought shelter.
“We were looking out the kitchen window and we said, ‘Wow, it’s really raining hard.’ The gas barbecue was over there and it went up in the air. We see the funnel cloud over there so we took off and took shelter in the basement,” Shaw said.
“When we came up out the side door, we see our neighbour’s RV on top of his truck and we came outside and assessed the damage. It shifted my whole garage over, the other side is buckled.”
Windsor police were warning residents to avoid the Deziel Dr. area because of damage.
They also reported that hydro poles had been knocked down and there were some live wires as a result.
— Jason Belanger (@JasonDBelanger) August 24, 2016
LaSalle resident Tom Greer said he was on his back porch with his girlfriend watching the storm when he saw funnel clouds forming in the distance.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Greer, adding that he saw tree branches and other debris swirling around.
He said the area with the most damage was just a kilometre from his home.
“We went for a drive afterward and some houses had the roofs torn off,” Greer said of the homes on Victory Street – the area that he said sustained the most damage.