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Tornado aftermath: Brothers lose homes in Kinburn and Dunrobin within minutes

Ottawa Citizen logo Ottawa Citizen 2018-09-22 Joanne Laucius

Jolene Dickson, Jason Nicholson and their three sons were at the Carp fair when a strong wind destroyed their house on Mohr's Road near Kinburn. © Joanne Laucius, Postmedia Jolene Dickson, Jason Nicholson and their three sons were at the Carp fair when a strong wind destroyed their house on Mohr's Road near Kinburn. The Nicholson brothers are a close-knit bunch.

There are four of them. They live within 30 minutes of one another west of Ottawa.

On Friday, two of them lost their homes within minutes of each other when a devastating tornado ripped through the capital.

When the storm hit around 5 p.m. on Friday, Jason Nicholson, his wife Jolene Dickson and their three sons, aged 7, 9, and 11, were at the Carp Fair, where Dickson is the past president.

They got a call from their neighbour, Brenda Gibson. Better get home.

“Your house is on our lawn,” joked one of the wags among the volunteers who had gathered Saturday to help the family salvage what they could from their house on Mohrs Road near Kinburn in the west end. The volunteers hooted at the joke and Nicholson cracked a smile.

The storm had unleashed devastating but seemingly selective damage to the family’s house, barn and shed.

The house, on a 10-hectare hobby farm on Mohrs Road near Kinburn, was demolished. Part of the roof was ripped off, windows were shattered and debris was scattered all over the lawn. A large splinter of wood was impaled in the side of the house like a spear. A tree had fallen into the kitchen, which was scattered with drifts of white insulation, like snow.

A tree crashed into the kitchen of the home of Jolene Dickson and Jason Nicholson near Kinburn. © Joanne Laucius, Postmedia, OTTwp A tree crashed into the kitchen of the home of Jolene Dickson and Jason Nicholson near Kinburn.

Trees were splintered. A large piece of sheet metal was almost wrapped around a tree trunk. Pieces of roof trussing were reduced to splinters and twisted lengths of sheet metal had been dumped in a neighbour’s backyard and scattered around neighbouring fields.

But the woodpile was intact, even though the shed was gone, and a metal silo appeared untouched.

Jolene Dickson, Jason Nicholson and their three sons were at the Carp fair when a strong wind destroyed their house on Mohr’s Road near Kinburn.

Neighbour Gibson said she and her husband Ted were inside in the foyer when the wind picked up, swirling into a vortex and lifting debris in the air.

“It was wicked. It was just like in the movies,” she recalled. “I said to my husband, ‘It’s a tornado!’ And ran to the basement. I got to the bottom step and he got to the landing and it was over.”

Gibson went outside. “I looked over and their garage was gone. It was one of those things you can’t believe.”

A barn that housed the family’s herd of sheep was also demolished. One of the sheep had been picked up by the wind and perished, along with a few chickens. Two more sheep had been injured, but the remaining 20 appeared fine. They were relocated.

The sheep that was killed was to have been shown at the fair, said Nicholson, shaking his head. One of the boys hadn’t even seen the damage yet.

The house of Nicholson’s brother Todd in Dunrobin was also struck. It’s unsalvageable. Todd, a para-athlete, was helping with a clean-up Saturday afternoon when volunteer brought a framed photo of Todd’s sledge hockey team out of the rubble. Not a scratch on it.

It may be the only piece of his memorabilia that can be saved, said Todd, who appeared unperturbed.

“We have an amazing community. We will pull together,” he said. “I have already had calls from all over the world. We have a close-knit family. We’re four brothers and we live within 30 minutes of each other. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll be OK. Things can be replaced.”

Jason Nicholson can’t find the words to express his reaction to the bizarre coincidence that both he and his brother should lose their homes within minutes in the same storm.

What will he do? “You rebuild,” he said.

Added Jolene Dickson: “Our kids are still alive and healthy, and that’s what matters.”

Click here for complete tornado coverage

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