IVY ACRES – Allan Gallagher was trapped on his roof when he heard, and then saw, last Friday’s tornado.
The Ivy Acres resident was at home with his wife Heather, on the western border of West Carleton near Lanark County when he saw and heard something he had never witnessed before – the raw power of a tornado.
“The wind had picked up, so I was on top of the garage (the roof doubles as a deck) taking the laundry off the line,” the Ottawa Carleton District School Board employee said. “It took 30 seconds. I heard a freight train come by and then I saw the tornado come through. I couldn’t even get in the house.”
He and his wife Heather, who was inside the house, used all the strength they could muster, boosted by the adrenaline of fear, but could not open the door separating him from safety. The winds, estimated around 300 kilometres an hour, were too strong.
“I was hit by the lid of the hot tub,” he said. “I held on to the hot tub. The garage looked like it was going to go. I could see the funnel cloud coming straight at the house. About 150 yards away, luckily, it turned.”
Their house, for the most part was spared. But pretty much every tree in the heavily wooded dead-end road was toppled.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Allan said. “You think your tough, but there’s a fear factor when you have absolutely no control. There was nothing I could do but watch.”
While they still had a place to live, they were trapped at their house with no power.
“You couldn’t see the road for the trees,” Allan said. ”We couldn’t do anything and we couldn’t drive anywhere.”
West Carleton Online visited the Gallaghers on Sept. 26, five days after the tornado struck. They had just got their power back the day before, and the road had finally been cleared by very busy hydro crews.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Heather said. “We had been out of contact for a few days. All the reports have said the tornado landed in Kinburn. We think it was a bit earlier than reported and a bit more west.”
Allan is soaked in sweat from another day of chainsawing. Heather and Allan have spent all week clearing debris, cutting up fallen trees and trying to get their property cleaned up.
“Every day, all day, it’s constant,” Allan said. “It took a day to clear out the driveway. I had to rebuild the barbecue so we could eat.”
When the road was finally cleared, friends started to check in on them.
“The odd neighbor popped in and brought us some water,” Allan said. “Our friend Carrissa (Nicholson) brought us some meals.”
Now that things are slowly returning to normal, and the Gallaghers have had some access to the outside world and the ability to get caught up on what happened to their West Carleton community, they are learning of the devastation the tornado wrought on the rest of the community.
“I don’t know if it was the same tornado that bounced around before landing in Kinburn, or if it was a different tornado,” Allan said. “All the media reports say the tornado touched down near Kinburn at around 4:30 p.m. I am curious to find out. My clock stopped at 3:30 p.m. so that’s how I know when it happened here. All of this took three minutes.”
“It’s so random,” Heather said. “It took out trees, our gazebo, but a few feet away our candle is still sitting on the picnic table. The lawn chairs didn’t move. I feel so bad for those who lost their homes. You spend your life building and it’s all gone in a minute.”
Heather had just returned from Japan where she was competing with her dogs. She said she witnessed some of the typhoon and mud slides that were going on there before returning home to the tornado.
“My dad has been calling me Hurricane Heather,” she said. “Mother Nature has my full attention now.”