In Ottawa’s west end, hailstorm brought massive trees down on a car and house. Fortunately, people inside weren’t hurt

House damage can be fixed, one man said. “It took 100 years for that tree to grow.”

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Paul Nichols was driving home from work on Friday afternoon when the hailstorm that pounded Ottawa became too intense and forced him to seek shelter.

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The Carleton Place resident, who works at the General campus of The Ottawa Hospital, first pulled over at a gas station on Carling Avenue, but felt it didn’t provide sufficient cover from the barrage of icy pellets pummelling the roof of his car.

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“It was pretty intense,” Nichols said Saturday morning. “It was really drilling it.”

He left the gas station and drove to a side street, Bromley Road, where he parked his car under a huge maple tree, thinking that would protect his vehicle from the golf ball-sized hail. But, perhaps 30 seconds later, the tree itself, sheared from its roots, came down on his car.

“It felt like the car was shaking. I didn’t think it was the tree,” Nichols said. While the tree bashed in the car’s roof and broke its windows, Nichols was not injured. He was able to get out of his car, but only through a rear passenger door.

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Paul Nichols damaged car tree Bromley Road
Paul Nichols, far left, looks on as a firefighter examines Nichols’ car, which was crushed by a falling tree on Bromley Road during Friday afternoon’s intense storm. Nichols was in the car at the time, but was unhurt. Photo by Mary Ann Bradley /Handout

“I was shaken up a little bit,” said Nichols, who expressed regretted that the tree had damaged his “first decent car,” which he bought only late last year.

“The monster maple hit it,” he said.

Mary Ann Bradley was not at home when the tree on her Bromley Road property came down on Nichols’s car. She herself drove home on Carling Avenue, seeking shelter from the storm. When she arrived home to the sight of the downed tree, her first thought was, “I hope no one was injured,” and her second was, “Oh, no. My beautiful shade tree is gone,” she said.

That incident was just one of several near the intersection of Carling Avenue and Sherbourne Road in which massive trees came down with near-catastrophic consequences. The much larger surrounding area, bounded by the Queensway, Ottawa River, Woodroffe Avenue and Churchill Avenue, was hard hit by Friday’s storm, and thousands of its residents lost power for as long as 13 hours.

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The storm also downed trees and large branches along Riverside Drive near Mooney’s Bay.

At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Hydro Ottawa posted on social media that it had restored power to more than 12,000 customers in the city, leaving 470 customers still without power. On its website, the utility posted that it was treating repairs following Friday’s storm “as a multi-day restoration event throughout the weekend with efforts focused on restoring power to the largest impacted areas, followed by a shift to smaller areas and individual outages.”

On the other side of the Ottawa River, Hydro Québec’s website reported at 9:30 p.m. that the Outaouais was still experiencing 19 outages affecting 1,527 total customers, and an online map showed most of those outages in the Aylmer sector.

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An update from Alain Gonthier general manager of the city’s public works department and forwarded to constituents by Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said that, based on service requests, the wards most heavily impacted by Friday’s storm were Bay, College, Knoxdale-Merivale, Kitchissippi and River.

The memo distributed by Kavanagh also said the forestry department had received “more than 50” tree-related service requests as of Saturday afternoon.

“A small number of affected parks have been identified and tree works will be completed based on priority by Forestry staff. Parks maintenance teams will complete cleanups early next week,” the memo added.

It also encouraged affected residents with tree debris to bring it to the curb for collection starting this coming week.

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A few hundred metres away from Nichols’s brush with serious injury, the storm sent Michael Walsh’s towering Japanese maple tree down on his Wembley Avenue house, damaging its roof and deck above its garage.

Walsh and his wife were inside the house they have called home for four decades, but were not hurt. Walsh was, however, saddened by the loss of the tree, which belongs to the City of Ottawa.

“My kids grew up here. They loved the tree. The rabbits would play in the bottom. Squirrels really loved the tree. Lots of people and things will miss that tree,” he said.

Michael Walsh Wembley Road tree storm damage
Wembley Avenue resident Michael Walsh stands in front of his house on Saturday, a day after it was damaged by a large Japanese maple tree that came down during Friday’s violent storm. Photo by Peter Hum /Postmedia

Looking at the damage to his house, Walsh said: “That can be fixed. It took 100 years for that tree to grow.”

Walsh noted that in May 2022, the violent derecho storm that devastated Ottawa with 120 km/h winds knocked down 400 hydro poles and left almost 180,000 homes and businesses powerless. It also knocked down a neighbour’s tree.

Then, Walsh thought he had been spared.

“We live in different times now. What’s abnormal is now normal,” he said.

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Westboro storm damage trees down
Westboro was severely struck by Friday’s stormy weather. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia
westboro storm damage trees down
Hydro and other repair crews were out in force in Westboro on Saturday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia
westboro storm damage trees down
Trees blocked by downed trees were found all over Westboro on Saturday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia
Westboro downed trees storm damage
Hydro and other repair crews were out in force in Westboro on Saturday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia
westboro storm damage trees down
A woman walking her dogs takes photos of some of the storm damage in Westboro on Saturday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia
westboro storm damage trees down hydro crews
Hydro crews and city tree cleanup crews were out in force in Westboro on Saturday. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

With files from Postmedia staff

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