Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer Vacation – Part 3 – A “twist” of Fate

Wednesday (August 2) as we drove from Kingston to Haliburton, we heard reports of thunderstorms potentially severe for all of Southern Ontario – which is a large territory so we really didn’t have any reason to avoid any particular place. It continued to be very hot and muggy (HUMIDEX made it like 40C or 104F) and we thought a thunderstorm would be nice to cool things down and we always enjoy watching the lightening and listening to the rain on the roof of the “BBB”. And after all how severe could a thunderstorm be -- Famous last words!! (As an aside - some day I'll have to tell you about "Linda's" mansion in Madoc which we stopped to see on our way through)

Linda’s sister Stephanie wasn’t expecting us until at least Thursday and we planned to stop somewhere for the night.

We found Rip’s Sleepy Hollow - a very nice campground - about halfway between Haliburton and Stephanie’s. (The picture is from their website).

Our campsite was on a slope facing down to the lake with a nice tree on the site. (tree just left of center in the picture). To get it level, we had to put the front wheels up on the ramps that I made to carry with us. As we were doing that one of the campground attendants came by and Linda said that it was such a nice spot looking out over the lake that she hoped there would be a thunderstorm that we could watch. The next morning he came back and said - Well was that storm good enough for you!!

After supper, it had clouded over and we were laying on the bed reading with the windows open. Linda heard some thunder and got up to lookout the window. She said she heard a sound like a freight train and saw a wall of water coming across the lake. She closed the windows just as we were hit with the strongest winds and most torrential rain I have ever experienced.

It was swirling around the “BBB” and we started rocking back& forth -- enough that I started to get concerned about whether we might be lifted off the ground. However, within less than a minute the worst of it was already over (although I didn’t know it at the time). I was able to look out and see that the trailers one either side were still OK and my reasoning was as long as they’re not moving we are OK because we are heavier.

Around the same time we saw these guys in a trailer about 50 yards away come rushing out in their undershorts and go charging into the bush at the back of their trailer. We couldn’t see very well with the heavy rain and with the storm it was getting dark. The next morning we found out that a tree had come down just missing the corner of their trailer and hitting the one guy’s truck.

We also found out in the morning that another trailer- a couple hundred yards away had 2 trees fall on it and the lady was hit on the head – but no one was injured in the campground or as far as we know in the whole area.

We sat in the front seats and watched the storm (at more” normal levels rage on for perhaps 30 minutes. A couple of times it got more intense but nothing like that first barrage. Then as fast as it came it was gone (except for the rain which continued for quite awhile.

The power went off at the first of the storm and we could see the flashing red lights from the emergency vehicles on the main road about ½ mile away. We found out later that a stand of pines had been hit by a “real” twister” sending treetops all over the place and taking out 2 hydro poles. The emergency vehicles were there because the road was blocked by trees and downed lines.

Before the storm died down Linda called Stephanie on the cell phone and asked her how she was. She said “Not too good – we just had a big storm and “all” our trees have comedown. Linda said "I now we are right next door and we had it too" . Stephanie was obviously very shaken up. They have lived there for almost 20 years and never had any wind damage before this. Their power was out and didn’t get restored until Saturday morning When they heard the storm coming they headed for the basement. They were all fine and they had no damage to their house but they did lose 9 trees including 5 “multi-stem” cherry trees. – it was so sad to see such beautiful trees uprooted and destroyed but it was still better than losing a house or being injured.

As soon as the wind had died down , we started to see people going down to the beach to check on their boats and then we saw some people walking around the beach area with flashlights. Shortly after that the campground people came and knocked on our door to make sure we were OK – when we asked if there was much damage they said we lost a bunch of trees at the beach.

This was a very nice grove of perhaps 40 trees. (The before picture is fromtheir website -the after picture was taken from the beach - looking back towards the campground. You can see the "BBB" in the background (centre). Over half the trees were broken or uprooted – they came down in a “twisted” pattern so I think there was a small tornado there as well. (The tree that came down where the trailers where all fell the same direction which is characteristic of a straight line wind rather than a “twister”)

The tree that was right next to us was swaying pretty badly during the storm and I was worried it might come down and hit us but it stayed up and seemed OK. The next day we discovered that it had along crack below a fork so it was very close to breaking off.

The reports the next day (click HERE and HERE) confirmed that devastation of the stand of pines near us (at West Guildford) was caused by an F1 tornado. Just today there was a followup report that said that this storm resulted in at least 8 tornados – more than for any single weather disturbance to hit Ontario for at least 21 years. –click HERE -- and there we where right in the middle of it. We were thankful that we didn’t suffer any damage and that no one was hurt but I guess that will teach me to say – after being in Mississippi – you really can’t imagine what one of these storms are like unless you experience it and we just don’t have weather like that in the North.(snow maybe but no tornadoes or hurricanes—which is true of where we live but we had ventured into the Ontario tornado band and God decided we needed to see it first hand.)

Anyhow, Thursday morning Stephanie came by to see us and told us that it would be impossible for us to get to her place with the “BBB” because she had to maneuver her way around fallen trees with her Sunfire and, at times wasn’t sure she would make it through. She is a PSW (Personal support worker) and she was trying to get to see a lot of her clients since many of them are older people that can’t fend well for themselves. She was having difficulty getting to some of the places and in any case her ability to do much for them was limited because the power was off.

Later in the day she came back and took us to her place. They have a long narrow lot stretching from the road back to the lake. There was a nice row of trees along their neigborslane that provided anatural separation between the lots. The bulk of the trees fell from there into Wayne & Stephanie's yard. Wayne (Stepanie's husband) was starting to cut up some of the trees that had fallen so we helped with that for a while and then we all went back to the campground to prepare supper because we had power (from our generator) and a gas stove and water (in our onboard tank) .
By the time we traveled the roads on Thursday they had been cleared to allow for the Hydro trucks and other heavier equipment needed for repairs so I could see that we would be able to get there with the “beast”. So we did that Friday morning. The campground had a generator going to keep their water system operating so I filled my holding tank before we left.

The rest of Friday and much of Saturday I helped Wayne cut up downed trees and pile the branches. The roar of chainsaws was a consistent background sounduntil welefton Monday morning. The picture shows the piles of wood we cut and on the left one of three piles of brush that resulted)

(My friend John Sanders would have loved this because he had never operated a chainsaw until he went to Mississippi and he fell in love with doing tree removals. I enjoy working with a chainsaw but don't often get a chance so, while I would rather the trees had fallen, I did enjoy helping cleanthem up)

This turned out to be a “wrong place” (no one would think being in the sights of a tornado was the right place to be –would they??) but at the “right time” because we were able to bring cooking capability to a household that would have been living off cold food or BBQ for 3days if we hadn’t been there and we were also able to help with the cleanup. The other thing about this was that we ended up staying for a couple days longer and as Linda said “We got to know them a lot better than we would have in a “normal” visit.

Stephanie is the youngest in Linda’s family and there is 26 years difference in age. Stephanie is actually 6 months younger than our oldest Chris. It was a bit of a unique then when they were younger and growing up. A couple of times Chris and Stephanie were at the same social event and some of his buddies would ask about the “cute chick” he was talking to and he would say “that’s my aunt” and they’d say “Yeah – right!!”. Anyhow, Linda was away from home by the time Stephanie was born so they really didn’t spend much time together when she was young and then she moved away almost 20 years ago so Linda only got to see her a day or 2 at a time usually with a bunch of other people around.

This time they got to spend a lot of time being sisters and sharing the things that were happening in their lives.

We got to know her younger daughter Kelsey quite well. Linda worked with her to make several craft items which they both enjoyed. I played cribbage with her one afternoon and we played cards (something called 31 as a group one evening. They had a large number ofmonarch butterflies and one afternoon Kelsey hadone sitting on her hand.

The visit was good and oddly enough made better because of the storm. God works in mysterious ways. I got to know Wayne a little better as we talked while we worked. Their older daughter Sierra was working 12 hour shifts at a grocery store in Hailburton so we didn’t get to see her as much. I also missed getting her picture until Monday morning when I caught her on her way out to work.

So – What did YOU do on your summer vacation?
God Bless
Charlie & Linda

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