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TDChristian spared from tornado damage

Written on August 26th, 2009

[caption id=”attachment_2705” align=”aligncenter” width=”300”]IMG_3509001FS Fire rangers from the Ministry of Natural Resources have been cleaning up the downed trees and branches in TDChristian’s sports field caused by last week’s tornado.[/caption]

‘There’s a lot of damage all around us, but we’re blessed to be part of such a strong community’

When a tornado struck a neighbourhood in Vaughan Aug. 20, several nearby properties were severely damaged but Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) was relatively unscathed.

“We are really thankful for having been spared like we were,” says principal Ren Siebenga.

The school is undergoing a major $3-million expansion. Several construction workers and 10 alumni, who were decorating for a wedding, were at the school when the storm hit around 6:30 p.m.

Siebenga says he was down the street from the school, near where the storm started at Martin Grove Road and Highway 7, when he received a call from the school that the tornado was hitting. He immediately went to the building.


Fallen branches and debris on TDChristian’s property

Because of the addition much of the school’s desks and equipment was being stored in the gym, where rain was pouring in.

[caption id=”attachment_2712” align=”alignright” width=”200”]Tornado 1FS200 Fallen branches and debris on TDChristian’s property[/caption]

“There were buckets and buckets of rain coming down and it was just running all over the place inside the building,” says Siebenga.

The alumni helped move barrels to catch the water.

“It was wonderful in a number of ways because we had a lot of help immediately,” says Siebenga.

When the storm passed, Siebenga says they were able to see what happened. The expansion did not sustain any damage.

Pieces of two-by-fours and two-by-sixes were found stuck through the roof in several places, causing minor damage. The school’s HVAC unit was hit by a piece of lumber that knocked the controls off and damaged the unit inside.

Siebenga says it’s interesting there were stacks of shingles and Styrofoam on the school’s roof for the addition, and none of it was touched by the storm, not even the Roof safety systems which were installed.

“It’s just unbelievable,” he says.

Dozens of trees lining the west side of the school’s sports field lost branches or were knocked over, and six 60- to 80-foot trees were uprooted.

Siebenga says all of this damage was quite minor compared to the surrounding neighbourhood, where 40 homes are unlivable.

Six hundred homes were damaged in the city, with 200 described as beyond repair.

Aerial footage from a TV news station helicopter taken the next day showed the path of the storm, with a trail of roofless homes, uprooted trees and major debris ending at TDChristian, a press release from the school states.

St. Peter’s Catholic school, an elementary school located nearby, had three of its ventilation units thrown off the roof. The school is unsure whether it will be able to open this fall.

When asked if TDChristian school families were affected, Siebenga says he knocked on the door of a family whose house backs onto the school property and was in the “eye of the storm.”

He says amazingly their house was untouched, though their neighbour’s home is missing a roof.

The City of Vaughan declared a state of emergency, and the Ministry of Natural Resources deployed workers to help clean up the areas affected by the storm.

Fire rangers are cleaning up the tree damaged areas, including the school’s sports field and adjacent parkland that had many downed branches and trees. This has saved the school from expensive cleanup work.

The school is thankful to Vaughan mayor Linda Jackson, the city and the crews from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

“The community has been wonderful,” says Siebenga.

“There’s a lot of damage all around us, but we’re blessed to be part of such a strong community.”