Calvin McCallum was looking forward to a restful Victoria Day long weekend but as could happen in his business, the weather had other plans.
Saturday was, of course, the day a wicked and sudden thunderstorm blew in, causing widespread wind damage across southern Ontario and Quebec and at least 10 deaths.
There were no reports of serious injuries in the London area, but the damage was widespread with topped trees causing damaged homes, crushed cars and extensive power outages.
McCallum is the president of CLC Tree Services and since the storm hit, he’s been busy sending his crews to help homeowners with downed trees.
And although the power is back on, McCallum said the cleanup from Saturday’s storm will take months to complete. There’s a triage system in place. For now, crews are dealing with the worst first, removing trees that punched holes in roofs, lifting trees off vehicles and fences and taking down trees that are dangerously damaged. From there, they’ll work to remove trees from yards followed by other cleanup work.
“I can confidently say that this won’t be the last storm of the summer,” said McCullum. “We will see more events like this. This will be a six-month cleanup.”
Here’s some of the storm stories he shared with CBC News on Thursday during a break between calls.
Q: What was your Saturday like?
It started bright and sunny and I was looking forward to a long weekend of putting my feet up and getting some relaxation with the kids. We saw the red dot on the radar and I postponed plans for a little bit. By the time the rain hit our place in the south end, I had already started getting calls from the Mt. Brydges and Delaware area. Within about five to 10 minutes, the storm was gone and the birds were chirping but the phone was ringing steadily.
A large tree came down on this car on Princess Avenue in London’s Old East Village. The residential streets bordered by Dundas, Quebec, Central Avenue and Adelaide Street suffered considerable damage. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News)
Q: How many calls are we talking about?
Between Saturday at 11:30 am and Monday morning I had fielded about 120 calls. I’ve worked pretty much 6 am to 9:30 pm or 10 pm every night since the storm came through and I don’t see that stopping any day soon.
Q: Thunderstorms aren’t new to southern Ontario. What made this one so bad?
Last year, we had four to five major wind events and quite often; they’re fairly localized and will hit one or two communities and that’s where the majority of our calls will come from. But this one was so widespread, coming from near the Chatham area and progressively getting worse until it got to Uxbridge and Ottawa. Now tree companies are so busy throughout the province that they can’t really pull in resources from other teams in different areas.
Q: We’ve heard about a senior being trapped in her car at Cherry Hill Mall. What happened there?
The landscapers showed up to a tree on a car, this was maybe a couple of hours after the storm had blown through. Their job was just to take the tree off the car so that it could be towed. From my understanding they found an elderly lady sitting in the car, giggling and laughing. She was quite high-spirited even though she was trapped by this tree in her car for a couple of hours and I guess all she wanted was a small slice of the tree to take as a keepsake to remember the event. And we’re lucky that she made it through that.
Q: Why is it a bad idea for homeowners to haul out their chainsaws and deal with tree damage themselves?
We see friends and family that own chainsaws who just want to help but we recommend strongly that you stay away from having people help you on your property with these things. They probably don’t have the experience and they definitely don’t have the insurance. If the person doing the work doesn’t carry the insurance then the homeowners are quite likely liable for some very expensive fines and repercussions. If you have a tree in your backyard and it’s going to take a few weeks for some professionals to get there, then focus your efforts on other things and leave it be and let your insurance company deal with it.