Daniel Gélinas says he had only a few seconds to react before his 150-year-old farmhouse was hit by a tornado Monday afternoon.

Gélinas was having a coffee in his home in Très-Saint-Rédempteur, Que., near the Ontario border, when he looked up and saw his belongings swirling through the yard.

"I looked outside the window and parts of my deck were starting to fly by, and I started seeing the swirling in the yard so I grabbed my dog, went to my basement and just jumped down," he said.

Within 30 seconds, it was over, Gélinas said in an interview Tuesday. He recalls hearing a constant roar, but can't even say how loud it was.

"We literally hit the ground in the basement and got back up, looked outside and it was all done."

The storm that tore through his property ripped the roof off the small red farmhouse, flattened his garage and scattered his belongings across the street. On Tuesday, a piece of the house's roof dangled from a power line, while bits of broken furniture, wood and equipment were strewn around the swimming pool and carefully landscaped garden.

Hydro-Québec crews were on site, walking through a tangle of downed trees and power lines strung with debris.

Environment Canada confirmed Tuesday that a tornado hit southwestern Quebec at around 5:30 p.m. Monday near Rigaud, which is about 60 kilometres west of Montreal.

Meteorologist Michèle Fleury said the confirmation was made based on photos and videos, but a team from Western University's Northern Tornadoes Project was en route to confirm its strength and trajectory. She said it was possible that a tornado could have touched down in Ontario as well, though that hasn't been confirmed.

A Quebec man grabbed his dog and jumped into his basement for safety as #tornado hit his home. #Quebec #Extremeweather

Très-Saint-Rédempteur Mayor Julie Lemieux said the tornado toppled trees and damaged several homes and farm buildings in the community as well as in nearby Rigaud, but officials don't believe anyone was injured.

Lemieux said residents received alerts about the storm before it hit, and that the municipality responded quickly and well. She said it's something they've had to prepare for in recent years as severe storms have become more frequent — which she attributes to climate change.

"A tornado, it's the first in decades, but we have to be prepared for it to happen more often," she said, stressing the importance of people having an emergency kit ready.

Gélinas said he did receive an alert on his phone warning him of a possible tornado, but that he has received similar warnings in previous years and nothing came of it. He said the day was windy, but he never saw a signature funnel cloud or signs the storm would be more dangerous than usual.

Gélinas and his wife Julia Asselstine say they're still in shock to see their four years of hard work restoring the property blown away.

"The roof to my garage is 30 feet up in the tree here, our deck is in the other yard," he said. "The pool is pretty much taken apart. It’s unbelievable."

Asselstine, who was at the couple's primary home in Montreal, said she got a text from her husband as the storm hit. After that, she couldn't reach him and feared the worst as she called again and again.

Both of them say the important thing is that nobody was hurt, and that the now-roofless 19th century farmhouse as well as a 100-year-old barn on the property held up fairly well, all things considered.

"We'll rebuild, that's all there is to it," Gélinas said.

The tornado also touched down in Rigaud, where acting fire Chief Guillaume Roy said Monday night that four homes were damaged, including one whose roof was ripped off. A number of barns and grain silos were also damaged.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2024.

Keep reading