Powerful Tornadoes Rip Through Ottawa Causing Massive Outages

September 24, 2018

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

Nearly 200,000 customers in and around Ottawa were without power after a pair of devastating tornadoes tore through the area around Canada’s capital about 90 minutes apart.  Fortunately, no fatalities were reported as of yesterday afternoon, many homes were destroyed and countless others damaged, vehicles were overturned, and trees were uprooted or snapped.  The second, stronger twister was reported to register at E/F3, with 160 mph wind speeds.  It was the first tornado of this magnitude Canada had experienced in September in more than 100 years and moved across the area for about 25 miles before lifting.

As recovery work continues, area schools are closed for the day and Federal government employees have been told to work from home.  In fact, that city officials encouraged all residents to stay home today to help keep the roads clear to facilitate continued cleanup and avoid creating congestion with hundreds of traffic lights still out.  This, despite a herculean effort to restore power to the area over the weekend.  This morning, Hydro Ottawa posted that that 3,570 of its customers were still without power – a remarkable feat considering the damage.

Despite the devastation, residents across the area came banded together to make the best of the situation.  In Barrhaven, a large group gathered at Larkin Park where volunteers had set up temporary cooking facilities to provide warm meals for anyone in need.  Darrell Bartraw, who owns a catering service, let residents know he would be setting up his gear to provide a pancake breakfast, according to OttawaMatters.  Several others set up their portable cooking facilities at sites around the area and invited the community to come for a hot meal.

Yesterday evening, Hydro Ottawa reported that power had been restored to all of Barrhaven.

While most of the region had had power restored, with workers being asked to avoid traveling today, businesses may not yet be aware of the extent of any damage that resulted from the storms.  In addition to physical damage to buildings, companies without power protection systems in place may have easily suffered damage to the technology that keeps them functional.  Power outages are often accompanied by power surges exceed the limits sensitive microchip circuitry was designed to handle, causing the systems to fail.  At the very least, they likely weakened the circuits, increasing the likelihood of a break with future surges.

Power protection systems are designed to not only provide backup power – short or extended runtime, depending on the solution – but to power to systems to prevent damage from spikes and surges, which can happen at any time, even without an outage.  It’s an investment, but it’s one every business should consider as seriously as cybersecurity.  The downtime, costs, and loss of data and software can create losses far exceeding the losses due to the outage alone.

Edited by Erik Linask