That title is a reference to this scene from Twister.
Last Friday we had a rarity in terms of weather. Late in the afternoon, a tornado swept through the area, doing its worst damage in the rural community of Dunrobin west of the urban core, and across the river in Gatineau. It was one of three tornadoes to touch down in the Capital area within a short space of time, of a total of six that touched down from the same system. I came home early that evening, getting in shortly before the rain started. The power went out around six PM, and the rain intensified, along with high wind. I had no idea there had been a tornado, but stayed inside while the rain was falling. When it had cleared off, the power was still out. I decided to go for a walk. It turned out that the electricity was out for a substantial part of the cities on both sides of the river- with a full outage starting two blocks of my place with everything west of that (power came back on at home just over twenty four hours later) and hit and run spots where buildings were out east and south of there. I would see low lighting in office lobbies where security guards were posted, knowing that those lobbies were usually more brightly lit, so the back up generators gave those buildings some light, but not a lot. In apartment buildings, I noticed candle lights at windows in the darkness; back up generators might light up corridors, but not individual apartments. You quickly forget living in the city how dark the night really gets. At least until you lose power.
That evening, I headed out after the storm had passed to kill some time. I passed over the Mackenzie King Bridge, heading to the Rideau Centre mall, which was lit up. I paused over the Rideau Canal to photograph the twilight view. The clouds were clearing off.
I crossed to the other side of the bridge to photograph the opposite view. The sun might have been down, but the top of the cloud deck was still lit up. This is one of the receding edges of the storm- the big tornado had spent its energy over on the Gatineau side of the river before breaking up. I spent time at the mall, headed back home to darkness, and had absolutely no idea there had been a tornado until the following day when I had a bit of time online and found Facebook messages: 'are you okay?' I'd thought it had just been a particularly intense storm.
The Ottawa Citizen has its printing presses out in the west end, and power went out there as well. The paper delivered later than usual on Saturday, hitting stores in the afternoon, but the storm coverage in that paper dominated the first three pages, and has continued to do so in the days since.
This page was from the Sunday edition of the Toronto Star.
I went for a walk early Sunday morning along Bank Street, before dawn. The caution tape you see here had been there on Friday- there had been signs of some minor work being done on an adjoining building, and the tape had set up a perimeter to keep pedestrians out. The winds of the storm had ended up shredding the tape and wrapping it around the poles here.
Along Bank Street, the aftermath of the storm had a hit and run effect. Some businesses lost power, others did not. Massine's is a grocery store along this stretch that did lose power, and when I photographed this, around five thirty in the morning, it was an hour and a half away from opening. A clerk can be seen behind the sign. Power had come back on in the store the previous evening, but work had to be done. Employees were inside on clean up duty- things like eggs and dairy, for instance, can't be sold to the public if the power goes out in the way that it did.
Down the street, this sign was in a restaurant window. Those shops and restaurants that had not lost power had been quite well visited on Saturday. Chatting with one of the vendors at the main farmers market on Sunday morning, I learned that they had attended another market in the Westboro area, which had been completely knocked out in terms of power. They sold their complete stock of baked goods on the Saturday at that market and had to bake more for the Sunday market at Lansdowne- a testament to just how many people were out of power.
Here I have views from an intersection not far from my home on Sunday morning. A tree had come down in the storm on Friday. Crews had been by to open up the intersection, leaving piles of branches and trunks of the fallen tree on either side of the intersection. Follow up crews would show up in the days afterwards to clear up the debris; the priority was getting spots like this open.
Obviously this stop sign at the scene will have to be replaced. It was quite an experience- the first tornado I've been through (even if I hadn't known it was a tornado until afterwards). At the height of the power outage, hundreds of thousands of people were without power in Ottawa and Gatineau. No one was killed locally, but there were many injuries, and homes were damaged or destroyed. A tornado on the last day of summer? That's a hell of a way to end a season, and one that we'll remember for years to come.