Greetings from storm-ravaged Ottawa, Ontario, friends. So I was sitting here Saturday afternoon editing photos of the tulips in my garden when I thought, “Yikes, it’s getting really dark out there. Looks like a storm. Better go out and clip the last remaining tulips before they get smashed to crap.” Then while I was outside clipping tulips I thought, “Yikes, it’s getting really dark out here. There is definitely going to be a storm. Better get inside before you get smashed to crap.” Less than five minutes later, just as I was putting the finishing touches on my rescue tulip bouquets, a wildly destructive storm front called a derecho rolled over Ottawa, and smashed the crap out of my city.
Years ago in Orlando, Florida, at the end of a long, stormy day of Disney-ing, Mr. Finger Candy and I were caught in a downburst as we tried to navigate the parking lot in front of our resort. As the water rose above my ankles, the sheeting rain and gale force winds drove me into a nearby rental compact, and I briefly wondered if we were both going to go off sailing to the Land of Oz. Until this weekend’s homegrown derecho, that storm was my personal litmus test for a frightening meteorological event. Saturday’s storm was so much worse.
Nearly 72 hours after 120 km/hour winds rocked the city, there are still over 70,000 homes and businesses without power. Gas stations have run out of fuel, grocery stores have run out of food, and restaurants, in need of both, have simply shut their doors. From pretty well one end of the city clear on out to the other, there are snapped, toppled and uprooted trees, smashed fences, and collapsed structures. A major retail corridor, Merivale Road – if the name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the area that was nearly leveled by a gas explosion some months back – is a tangled snarl of downed power lines. The sound of gas-powered chainsaws and generators is constant.
Knock on every bit of wood that was littering my front lawn before I went out today and picked it all up, but we came through the storm alright. I won’t comment on our deer-in-the-headlights reaction to the storm itself (not everyday a tornado rips through the Ottawa Valley; we were gobsmacked by the storm’s utter fury, such that we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the windows) but we didn’t lose power. In the immediate aftermath, it looked like a dump truck full of silty, leafy water had been hurled at our house, but praise the gods, we suffered no material damage to our home or property.
The same can’t be said for our immediate neighbours, whose 20-foot fir, leaning somewhat towards the street, was uprooted and tossed casually in the completely opposite direction (towards the neighbours who are thankfully not us.) The mere presence of this felled behemoth, stretched across two driveways and most of a lawn, has attracted a near-constant parade of gawkers and rubberneckers. I’m sad; it maybe wasn’t the most attractive tree, but it was old and living and added to the shade canopy on the street, and was undoubtedly a better steward of this earth than all of us utterly hellbent on destroying it (climate change is a myth/sarcasm.)
And so cleanup begins. Yesterday Mr. Finger Candy and I went out and filled two leaf bags with the sticks, branches and whole tree limbs that were littering the front and back yards. I swept down the front of the house and removed all the bits of stuck-on leaves and mulch spackled to the windows, doors and siding. I filled half a leaf bag with the fluffy floral remnants of our chestnut tree’s white blossoms, which carpeted the front lawn and driveway. I vowed to actually go “down cellar” the next time there’s one of these furious storms, instead of gawping out the window like an idiot extra in a climate disaster movie (“Mr. The Rock, sir? Is the water line supposed to be up to the 17th floor of this building?”)
And I’m trying not to be immensely bitter about the fact that for the past two weeks, I’ve spent an incredible amount of time and money re-landscaping our property. For a solid week and a half, Mr. Finger Candy and I began every day with a trip to Home Depot for garden soil, 10 bags at a time. We’d then come home, unload our bounty, and I’d go out to the yard to “rebuild” the beds I’ve spent the past two seasons denuding. Lather, rinse, repeat.
When I was out clipping my tulips on Saturday afternoon, everything looked spectacular, fresh and clean and level! No more blundering into ankle-twister holes or tripping over exposed roots! Then we all got derecho’d, and nothing looks very spectacular any more. Most of the dirt I laid down seems to have disappeared, as if the force of the storm simply vaporized it. I’m trying to maintain my chill about the situation, given what a non this is in the greater scheme of post-storm things, but dang, the pointlessness stings. Really knocked me down a peg or two, and believe me, these days, the lower rungs on the ladder have nearly disappeared; the ground is right. friggin’. there.
But we have power. And food. We are safe, our cats are safe and our families are safe. There are no downed hydro poles or gargantuan trees laying across our property. We came out of this one a little battered, but mostly okay. I hope you did, too.