Supporting our community After the Storm

3 MIN READ

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.

What happened

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.

A photo of the destruction after the storm.

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.

We continue to work with West Carleton Disaster Relief and other community organizations to return to a sense normal after the tornadoes, with an additional challenge in the mix: massive spring flooding along the Ottawa River and across Eastern Ontario means that some families are dealing with the aftermath of three natural disasters in three years.

Residents still have many hurdles to overcome.

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.

– Councillor Keith Egli

Many families are still not living in their homes. On top of that, they are still dealing with insurance companies, re-planting trees, remediating the soil, and seeking a sense of balance in communities that look much different than they did before.

For United Way, we’re still working with on-the-ground, local agencies in the affected neighbourhoods.

We’re still here.

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.

– Angela Bernhardt, West Carleton Disaster Relief

Although we still have a long way to go, we are stronger as a result of the connections we built. And no matter what happens, United Way is here for our community, 365 days of the year.

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