On Friday, September 21, 2018, the most significant tornado to hit Eastern Ontario since 1902 touched down in Dunrobin and traveled across the Ottawa River to Gatineau, Quebec, leaving a trail of wreckage.
Over the past eight months, United Way Ottawa has invested or allocated nearly $288,000 in neighbourhoods hit hardest, and has committed a further $249,000 in supports for 2019. These investments in neighbourhoods affected by the tornadoes will ensure their long-term resilience after the storms.
In total, six tornadoes hit neighbourhoods in and around Ottawa that day, causing damage to houses and local hydro grids, and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of households. Families lost their homes, food was spoiled, and communities have been forever changed.
I just got home from work and looked at my backyard – My wife and I looked up and saw this swirling cloud above our home. Trees down, roofs gone, sides of houses gone, so very, very significant impact.
– Councillor Keith Egli, city councillor for Knoxdale-Merivale ward
Within hours, United Way Ottawa rallied the community to support our neighbours in need.
Here for community
Quickly after the tornadoes touched down, United Way led the formation of After the Storm – a partnership that brought together numerous community organizations to collaborate and ensure vulnerable populations were not left behind as they started to rebuild and recover from the disaster.
We also quickly invested in the Ottawa Food Bank to ensure residents affected by power outages had access to food and basic needs. In the following weeks, we continued supporting residents in the Dunrobin, Kinburn, Arlington Woods, Craig Henry and Greenboro neighbourhoods by investing in community-based mental health and counselling services, information referrals, outreach to seniors and planning supports – all this matched by our promise to be there for residents for the long haul, after the disaster period was over.
There’s still a lot of work to do now that spring has arrived and snow is melted. You still see many homes that are tarped up, homes without roofs, homes missing all the siding.
Most recently, we invested in long-term mental health supports, crisis lines, and programs that stay connected with vulnerable seniors in the neighbourhoods that were hit the hardest in September.
We also continue to work with local organizations to plan for the future.
What we’ve learned from this disaster, paired with valuable relationships built at the After the Storm table, means that we are more prepared for environmental events that have recently our city with increasing frequency. We’ve seen this first-hand as we started community outreach After the Floods.
We’re hoping that in the course of the next six months that people can come home.