A family of seven narrowly escaped and is lucky to be alive after a tornado touched down on their farm in Chatsworth, Ont.

Environment Canada and researchers have confirmed an EF1 tornado, which reached speeds of nearly 170 kilometres per hour, touched down in three parts of southern Ontario over the weekend, including in Chatsworth.

“As we study the data that were collected yesterday (Sunday), especially the high-resolution drone video, we’re starting to lean towards going up to the next step EF2, 180 km/h and above, just because how intense that tornado seems to have been,” said David Sills, the executive director of the Northern Tornadoes Project at Western University in London.

Read more:
Tornado touchdown causes damage near Chatsworth, Ont.

“This year has been fairly slow. We’ve only got three tornadoes up to this point, possibly four. We’re working on another one that occurred just after the Chatsworth tornado.”

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Roxie Zehr was at home with her five children who range in age from two to 12 when winds began to pick up. They were getting ready to watch a movie and the weather took a turn for the worse.

“As soon as we saw the patio furniture fly off our deck that’s when I said, ‘Run,’” Roxie said while standing outside of what is left of her home.

“The kids were great. They ran fast and we made it just time,” she said, adding that the family took cover in the basement.

They stayed there in darkness until a neighbour came over to check on them. That’s when they climbed out and saw the damage.

“Everything was here and then in a matter of minutes, it felt like it was just gone. There was nothing left of the garage and the mudroom, it just vanished,” Roxie said.

Her husband Brandon Zehr, who works for Hydro One, was called out to work when the tornado hit.

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“I left the home, which was a good thing because I would’ve been in the shop that’s not here anymore,” Brandon said.

“It’s still unreal. There’s brief moments that it sinks in, but it’s just that so much is going on I don’t think it really has yet.”

The community has rallied behind the Zehr family, starting a GoFundMe page to help raise money needed to rebuild, in addition to offering help to clean up the mess left behind.

“We have the opportunity to now pour out for Brandon and Roxie, what we know they would do for us anyway. So when we gather here at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and we start walking the fields and picking stuff out, we’re helping to make sure the future is bright for them,” said Pastor Tim Chambers from the South End Fellowship Baptist Church in Owen Sound.

The family is happy no one got hurt, including the dog. As they look around at what used to be their home, Roxie says she’s thankful to be alive to tell her story.

But to this resilient family of seven, these are just things.

“None of this matters,” Roxie says while looking at the shell of her home.




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