MIDLAND, Ont. — A severe storm harbouring a suspected tornado tore through a trailer park in central Ontario on Wednesday, inflicting widespread damage but only minor injuries.
Smith’s Camp, a trailer park in the heart of Midland, was hit by the storm shortly after 6:30 p.m. ET — just hours after central Canada was shaken by a moderate earthquake.
“It missed my side of town but it hit the south side, and I got a call shortly before seven that all hell broke loose,” said Midland Mayor Jim Downer, who declared a state of emergency.
A “small army” of Midland residents were working to assist those turned out of their homes by the storm, he added.
“I can tell you, as a mayor I’m very proud to see my community come together in a time of crisis, people working together, and (caring) about each other, it makes the community closer.”
An evacuation shelter was set up at a recreation centre, and the Salvation Army was on hand to assist. Forty homes were “destroyed” and four factories damaged, Downer said.
Hydro One said 8,400 customers in the Midland area and another 10,000 in the Peterborough, Ont., area were without power late Wednesday.
While an air ambulance was dispatched from Toronto a spokesman said it was cancelled “due to minor injuries.”
“We seem to be under control,” Jackie McLauchlin, spokeswoman for Georgian Bay General Hospital, said just before 10 p.m.
McLauchlin said about 20 people were brought into the hospital with storm-related injuries, but none were admitted.
“Incredibly lucky,” she added.
A woman reached at the camp says it was the seasonal section that was hit, not the mobile homes.
Midland is 65 kilometres southwest of Huntsville, Ont., where the leaders of the G8 nations are meeting Friday and Saturday, before the G20 meeting in Toronto.
The severe storm came just hours after central Canada, including Midland, was shaken by a magnitude 5.0 earthquake centered in rural Quebec, some 60 kilometres north of Ottawa. Residents across New York, Vermont, Michigan and Illinois also reported feeling the ground shake.
Emergency Management Ontario urged people in the areas bordered by Penatanguishine to the north, Barrie to the south, Collingwood to the west, and Orillia to the east to immediately take shelter from the storm.
Red alerts were later issued for the Windsor area of southwestern Ontario and the Peterborough and Lindsay areas east of Midland.
The red alert required everyone in the area, including motorists and boaters, to go indoors immediately.
Jay Dorion at a busy Boston Pizza near the trailer park said the storm went through quickly.
“It went right beside our building, it was crazy,” he said.
A few transport trucks on the highway were knocked over and the trees around the restaurant were bent over, he added.
“It didn’t look that dark and then it got really dark, and the wind picked up, and the rain picked up and you couldn’t see outside,” he said.
Environment Canada said radar indicates a severe rotating storm likely produced tornadoes in the Midland and Washago areas.
There were also reports of funnel clouds near Orillia, Ont.
The tornado warning for Orillia and Washago was called off shortly before 9 p.m., but warnings for the Peterborough area, and regions east, carried into the night.
Sandy, who answered the phone at Scully’s Crab Shack in Midland, was frantically dealing with the storm’s aftermath.
“Oh geez, nobody has power in Midland except for me,” she said, sounding out of breath.
“I saw a Honda (dealership) down, all their cars and all their windows smashed out… I heard from other people that houses and windows (were) knocked out,” she said, saying she had to go, and quickly hanging up.
Last August a young boy was killed in Durham, about 40 kilometres west of Midland, when a tornado smashed into the town.
Eleven-year-old Owen McPherson was killed by debris when the twister pummelled a conservation area north of the town.
Durham and Vaughan, just north of Toronto, were the hardest hit by the string of twisters that barrelled across the province.
Rows of houses in Vaughan were destroyed and a tornado also touched down in nearby Newmarket and Milton, northwest of Toronto.