Tornado tears through

 A tornado ripped through the Ottawa area Friday afternoon, damaging homes and vehicles as severe thunderstorms and high wind gusts also pounded southern Ontario.

Extensive damage to houses was reported by residents in Ottawa and in nearby Dunrobin. In Gatineau, Que., cars were overturned on Highway 50, said Environment Canada, which confirmed a tornado had touched down in the region.

Chris Angeconeb, his wife and their two sons went outside after getting a weather alert on their phones and saw a wall of rain and cloud coming toward their neighbourhood in Dunrobin.

Angeconeb, 52, said the clouds started to revolve in the sky and then it got eerily calm. One of his sons, who is a volunteer firefighter, said it looked like a tornado was coming.

From the basement where they took shelter under the stairs, they could hear objects hitting the house.

"You could hear things ripping. The wind was just amazingly strong," said Angeconeb. "It was intimidating and scary."

After a few minutes, the noise subsided and when they went upstairs, there was debris everywhere.

"It was devastation," he said.

"The house across the road — their garage was gone. Our good neighbour's house — their house looked completely destroyed. And his neighbour, two doors down, their house was gone. The top level was gone and it was just the basement left.

"The man who lives there was asking for help because his sister had been hurt."

Angeconeb said his house was in a relatively good shape, but the southwest side was damaged. The roof was ripped off in that corner and pieces of lumber were lodged in the wall.

"We were freaked out by it all. There is a little bit of shock on the part of everybody in our house, but otherwise we are OK."

The family is going to spend the night with friends in a nearby community after firefighters asked them to leave the area over concerns about natural gas.

"I don't think they are going to let us in there until a structural engineer goes in there and has a look and makes sure everything is safe," he said, adding that first responders should be commended for getting to the neighbourhood quickly.

"We had a really fast response from the Ottawa fire service. It really helped a lot that they were there to make sure we were OK."

Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist with the national weather agency, said a line of thunderstorms running from west of Ottawa and into Gatineau were expected to continue into Friday night.

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