May 28, 2012

Phantom tornado rocks West Ottawa subdivision

Saturday clean-up

Sitting around the dinner table Friday night, we tucked into a tortellini dinner as the first raindrops of a predicted thunder shower pattered across the driveway and the neighbour's roof. Look how fast the clouds are moving, I remember saying, as we looked out the picture window. Thunder clapped and rain began falling in earnest. I ran through the house closing windows. I worried how the garden would fare under the downpour.

Seconds later, an intense wind picked up. Maple keys and twigs billowed up by the thousands and swirled in the driveway. The noise of the wind and thunder were really something. My little daughter began to cry. There was such a mess of rain, wind and debris that we could barely see outside. The wind turned from east to south. Outside turned an opaque gray. I had left the kitchen window open; a fist of rain soaked the kitchen in the time it took me to say to my husband, something I've never said before, should we go in the basement? Ada was sobbing. The baby was oblivious.

While my husband and I stared at each other, trying to divine what we should do, it stopped. Our little five minute storm had passed us by. Jeff went to the living room window, and started in surprise.  The neighbour's tree is down! he cried. It was a forked tree, and an entire fork had broken clean, fallen onto our neighbour's vehicle and crushed it, and come to rest on the oak tree in our front yard. We tried to call the city, but the power went out while I was on hold.

We ventured into the litter of our flooded street. A second tree was down two houses away, completely blanketing that neighbour's car. Another tree had fallen across the road 100 yards away. The wind had also punched out a panel of my neighbour's fence.

There was nothing about the damage in the news. As I write, two wood chipper crews are removing the rest of the branches and an arborist is removing the rest of our neighbour's tree. My neighbour's car insurance won't cover the damage, I guess because it was a storm's work, and the property insurance won't cover it because it's a vehicle. Bad luck.

The arborists came around again on Monday. They told me the storm was a microburst.

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