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Old 02-11-2010, 05:11 PM
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Photos May.22, Tornado rips through Mitchell, Ontario. Click thumbnail on left for full s

THE FOLLOWING STORY COPYRIGHT BY THE MITCHELL ADVOCATE
An unforgettable Victoria Day weekend
‘You certainly can see the hand of the Lord in saving lives....there’s a higher power’
By Andy Bader

AT THE SCENE Geoff Coulson, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, talks on his cellular phone Sunday morning while standing in front of the Vander Kuylen home on Feltz St., Mitchell which no longer has a roof after a tornado ripped it off Saturday night. Behind Coulson to the left of the photo is a pickup truck owned by Jerry Fuhr which was picked up and hurtled 10-metres from his driveway.

Andy Bader Photo

A ROOF NO MORE Harry and Rosa Vander Kuylen’s house at 3793 Feltz St., Mitchell, no longer has a roof after a tornado ripped through the town’s southern end Saturday night. The sky to the west is eerily calm about an hour after the storm hit. Damage was severe to this house, with extensive damage elsewhere in the south end of Mitchell. Amazingly, no one was injured.

Andy Bader Photo
Mitchell Advocate — A tornado hit Mitchell’s south end Saturday night, and residents far and wide are still in shock days after the Victoria Day long weekend event.
Damage could have been much worse, obviously, during a severe spring storm raged in a southeasterly direction which hit shortly after 7 p.m.
Environment Canada officials confirmed the Mitchell twister was an F2 tornado with wind speeds of 240 km/h.
“It’s a real miracle that no one was injured. Just imagine this stuff swirling around at 240 km/h,” said Geoff Coulson of Environment Canada, part of a team investigating the Mitchell tornado Sunday.
For one Mitchell family, they’re just thankful to be alive after the home they’ve owned for the past eight years no longer has a roof.
Harry and Rosa Vander Kuylen and family, of 3793 Feltz St., have re-located to a friend’s vacant farmhouse in Russeldale after the roof was torn off by the tornado.
"My daughter was in her room and I told her we better get to the basement," Rosa said at the scene, less than an hour after the damage occurred. "The force of the wind pushed us down the stairs. We were lucky to get out of there."
Vander Kuylen and her 17-year-old daughter Lisa were upstairs in the house, while two other boys, including a son Jon, were already downstairs. Harry was not at home at the time, but was heading home after visiting his brother in Atwood.
“I went to church this morning because I was so thankful we all survived. It was providence that we got down the basement steps,” said Rosa Sunday.
Harry, speaking after a meeting of affected residents Monday night at the municipal building called by the West Perth Emergency Control Group, 48-hours after the event, offered thanks to friends, neighbours and strangers who helped get their lives somewhat back in order.
“The help has been unbelievable,” he said.
“You certainly see the hand of the Lord in saving lives,” he continued. “Not too often we say that, but there’s a higher power. And we’re thankful for everything.”
Parts of the Vander Kuylen roof were littered across the region - reportedly as far away as Georgina Street - while tall, mature trees were snapped like twigs. Pink insulation and plywood, as well as shingles, were scattered throughout their backyard.
Incredibly, a neighbour to the east, Angie Nicholls, suffered no damage. A barbecue and empty bottles sat in their place, untouched.
A total of five houses facing north on Frank Street suffered damage, trees down, windows broken and in-ground pools ruined, but nothing like the Vander Kuylens.
When asked why she seemed so calm afterwards, Rose said "at least we're alive."
Mitchell Advocate — A state of emergency was called at 9:40 p.m. Saturday, two-and-a-half hours after the F2 tornado touched down in the southwest corner of Mitchell.
An emergency was declared by West Perth Mayor John Van Bakel in accordance with the Emergency Management Act, and was subsequently lifted at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 24.
During a de-briefing session Monday night, where affected residents were invited to attend a wrap up session and ask any unanswered questions about the entire ordeal, Van Bakel said the reason the emergency was called was to access other provincial and federal services if required, as well as ensure all volunteers assisting with the clean-up were covered by worker’s compensation should anything happen.
Rick Peters, of the Emergency Management of Ontario (EMO), said the declaration is not a sign of losing control, but “puts in place a mechanism that makes things happen quickly.
“If we know a community has a problem, it helps get assistance quickly,” he added. “If we don’t know, it’s a cold start.”
This past weekend alone, there were four emergency calls made in accordance with the act, Peters said.
Most of the fallen trees on Frank Street, as well as debris from all the property owners, had been cleaned up by municipal employees, volunteer firefighters and an army of other volunteers, friends and neighbours Sunday.
Hydro crews and gas employees were also quickly on the scene to shut off the power and clean up down power lines.
Staff Sgt. Joel Skelding of the Perth County OPP, a Mitchell resident, said he was at home when London dispatch called him to inform him of the tornado. He then acted the municipality’s emergency plan, and both he and Mayor Van Bakel said the plan worked fairly well, although they readily admitted things were made much easier since there was no injury or death.
“We were fortunate that we were able to focus on security and makes sure resources were there to look after things,” said Staff Sgt. Skelding.
Van Bakel said he was at church in Mitchell when the storm struck, and was on his way home to Brodhagen when he turned around.
“There were no injuries, which is the very fortunate part,” he said. “You can always deal with property damage.”
The Emergency Control Group, which includes Medical Officer of Health Dr. Susan Tamblyn, Administrator Pat Taylor, Operations Manager Mike Kraemer, Linda Rockwood of the Perth County Ambulance, Ollie Henry of Perth Social Services, Phil Graul, representing the West Perth firefighters and West Perth Power Inc.; Peters, Staff Sgt. Skelding and Mayor Van Bakel, reconvened Sunday morning at the site, then met at the municipal building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A precautionary boil water order was invoked due to the communal well situation in the area, but Dr. Tamblyn said the first series of tests were fine, and she expects the second set - which were to be known by late yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon - to be good as well.
The school principals were also notified, said Dr. Tamblyn, and were to instruct the staff and students early yesterday (Tuesday) about the incident and offer any assistance the youngsters may have.
Volunteers willing to assist in the clean-up were plentiful, and were asked to register in order to be safely insured.
The Mitchell Legion hosted a dinner on Sunday for victims and volunteers affected by this disaster, and they fed more than 100 people.
Residents attending the meeting Monday offered praise and thanks for the efforts of everyone, especially the firefighters and police.
“The most overwhelming and amazing experience was the army of people who came out to help,” said Lynda Jones, who along with her husband Don had severe exterior property damage due to fallen trees.
“We thought it would be weeks cleaning up, but it was all done by 5 p.m. Sunday.”
The Mitchell landfill site was made available as required, and was scheduled to be open again yesterday (Tuesday) free of charge for residents to deposit refuse from the storm. A curbside collection was also slated to take place yesterday (Tuesday).
Victim Services of Perth County held a meeting last night (Tuesday) for anyone still affected by the disaster. Victim services deals with people's "most basic needs." There is counseling available through their office at 1-866-387-7773.
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