by Betty Bardswich with files from Alicia McCutcheon
MINDEMOYA—The night of Saturday, August 20 proved very unsettling for a family from Sault Ste. Marie who was visiting relatives in Mindemoya.
“We were just about to go to bed. There was a storm, but just a regular storm, and then it was different,” explained Wendy Patreau, who was with her mother Gail, children Gracie, Leah, Mathew and dog Midas. “All of a sudden, it was completely different. It wasn’t just like regular wind. I knew there was imminent danger. I knew we had to take cover. It sounded different and I said to my daughter, ‘Get up, we are going to the basement.’ We weren’t even in the basement more than 10 seconds and we started hearing different noises and banging. Noises like elephants running across the deck. I thought I would look out and see the roof gone.”
The family was visiting Cathy and Doug King who live on Highway 542 on the outskirts of Mindemoya and the damage to their property was extensive, caused by a microburst, a sudden downdraft of air that explodes off in all directions as it hits the ground. Latticework on both ends of the deck was blown out; two lawn chairs were picked up, blown off the side of the deck, around the house and on to the highway. Trees in the backyard were uprooted, the barbecue was picked up and thrown off the deck onto the lawn where it lay in pieces, the siding that was piled up awaiting renovations at the house next door ended up against the guardrail across the highway and a heavy Roosterant Restaurant sign lay on its side, up against a fence.
A sizeable, hefty settee on the deck was moved and two very large trees quite a distance across the highway in the King’s acreage lay on their sides. As well, the chimney cap was torn off the roof of the house.
Ms. Patreau also spoke of the nervousness of their dog Midas long before the microburst. “The dog must have known that something was coming because he paced and paced,” she explained.
“And the dog went down in the basement, which he never does,” added daughter Leah.
The family was busy throughout the night, picking up siding and debris off the highway. Mr. And Mrs. King had been at a function in Providence Bay and so had missed the serious weather episode. “As we got near our house on our way home,” Ms. King commented, “I said, ‘Are those my lawn chairs?’’ Sure enough, the red chairs lay on the highway.
Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson told The Expositor that what the Patreaus described is consistent with a downburst event, the generic term for a microburst, as he was still gathering evidence to list the storm as such (a storm within a four kilometre radius), but noting that due to the south to north pattern of the damage, it was likely a microburst.
Mr. Coulson said Environment Canada had learned of another downburst near Halfway Lake on Saturday night which felled trees and damaged cabins between 11:30 pm and 12:30 am. He explained that a downburst is essentially a “big gust of wind” that leads the storm and encouraged anyone else who witnessed the event or received damages from the winds to contact Environment Canada by emailing email@example.com or by calling 1-800-444-9276 (WARN).