The aftermath: Ontario cottage country reeling from long-weekend storm

Ontarians were hit by a devastating storm over the May long weekend, which has since been categorized as a derecho, a fast-paced and widespread wind and thunderstorm accompanied by flash floods, tornados, and heavy winds. Starting near Sarnia late Saturday, this storm was aggressive in travelling northeastward across Southern Ontario, reaching Ottawa on Saturday afternoon. Western University’s Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) confirmed that a tornado swept through Uxbridge at a speed of 195 kilometres per hour, and left excessive damage in its wake. The NTP continues to investigate if other tornadoes were active at the time.

As of May 25th, Environment Canada has confirmed 10 deaths and extensive damage to trees, power lines, cars, and buildings. There continue to be power outages, with more than one million total customers affected on Saturday. Affected Canadians have taken to social media to share stories and pictures of the damage left in the storm’s wake.

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Joel Arthurs, cottager and president of the Skootamatta District Ratepayers Association (SDRA), was at his family cottage on Skootamatta Lake when the storm hit. “Across the entire property, we probably lost upwards of 50 trees, easily,” he says. Joel and his father were scrambling to close windows, tie down the boat, and secure the cottage when the derecho arrived. “I was just coming around to the front of the cottage to take the umbrella down on the front deck, and a chunk of one of the large red pines on the property came crashing down the hill 20 feet in front of me,” recalls Arthurs. His father had to ride out the storm in the boathouse.

While there was no damage done to their cottage, the property suffered a severed power line and many trees were uprooted or snapped in half. “We’re fortunate the cottage didn’t get hit,” he says. “The car took two small trees to the roof, but it’s repairable.” The SDRA received many messages from community members whose properties were affected, including reports of totalled cars or trees going through cottage roofs. He is thankful that no injuries have been reported in the area so far.

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