Monday, July 09, 2018

A Big Storm and Microburst

As we came out of Extendicare York about 4:00 PM, we saw that angry black clouds had developed along the northern horizon. They looked nasty, but we have seen that before and not had a problem.

Lorna was supposed to be dropped at Sandy's cousin Jayne's house on Northway Avenue in New Sudbury. Following Notre Dame Avenue to Lasalle Boulevard would be the fastest route. It was rush hour, so we went through downtown to St. Anne Road to get to Notre Dame.

Black clouds looking north from Winchester Avenue

Dark clouds over Sudbury downtown

If you are not familiar with Sudbury, Ontario, it is a very spread out city. The whole municipality is larger than the state of Rhode Island, although the population is only 160,000. The old city is made up of pockets of residential areas surrounded by large rock hills and wetlands. There are only a few roads that connect these various neighborhoods.

Traffic was stopped on northbound Notre Dame. From the rise, it looked like there had been a traffic incident at the Kathleen Street intersection. We were able to turn on Leslie Street, go over the hill and connect with the eastbound Kingsway. This would be a rather long detour, but options were limited. As it turned out, this was a lucky break.

Looking north from Notre Dame Avenue

The sky looked pretty benign as we started east on The Kingsway. Eastbound was slow bumper to bumper, as one would expect of a four lane arterial road at quitting time. As we progressed, the sky got darker and darker. After less than a half mile, rain started to fall. Within the next mile, we got hit with torrential rain, hail and extremely violent wind from the north. By the time we got to Barrydowne Road, another half miles, it had eased up to just rain and calm air.

Light clouds to the east as we start on The Kingsway

The black clouds slide over us

Heavy rain starts

Hail starts

Visibility is almost zero

We turned north on Barrydowne Road but it looked pretty crowded. I decided to take a common shortcut to Lasalle via Westmount and Attlee Avenues. At the Barrydowne/Westmount intersection, we saw the first heavy water on the road. As we got to Attlee and started up the hill, we saw tree branches on the ground. A the top of the hill, the road was awash in water and we had to negotiate our way around numerous fallen trees all the way to Lasalle.

Barrydowne Road near Westmount Avenue

Lots of water on the road

Westmount Avenue

Attlee Avenue

The traffic lights were out at Attlee Avenue and Lasalle Boulevard. Common sense and courtesy prevailed so we were able to turn westbound onto four lane Lasalle Boulevard. That did not gain us much because we could see something on the rise about a half mile ahead. Police, ambulance and fire vehicles appeared to be congregated and traffic was barely moving. The problem was right around Northway Avenue, where Lorna was heading.

Westbound Lasalle Boulevard traffic jam

Storm debris around a traffic signal pole

More debris

Trees down

Telephone poles snapped in half

Dealing with downed power lines

Seeing that Lasalle was not going to work, I turned right on Lauzon Avenue and tried to get to Grandview Boulevard, which paralleled Lasalle to the north. We got to the start of Grandview and were turned around by a police constable due to downed trees and power lines. It was obvious we were not going to get to Jayne's house so we worked our way back to Woodbine Avenue.

Scenes along Lauzon, Grandview and Woodbine

Woodbine Avenue took us to the north end of Barrydowne Road, which didn't look as bad. Then we went east on Lasalle to Falconbridge Road and home, where Sandy's potted plant was still on its stand as if nothing had happened.

We finally reached Jayne's cell phone. She (and thousands of others) were without power and she said the tree in their yard and others all around their house were destroyed. Later in the evening, she came by to pick up Lorna, who would be going to visit another of Sandy's cousins at their remote home on Onaping Lake tomorrow.

The final analysis was that we were hit by a microburst associated with the thunderstorm. The heavy damage was confined to a corridor that appeared to be about a half mile wide extending from northwest to southeast across New Sudbury. Large trees were splintered in the worst area but it, surprisingly, most roofs appeared intact. I heard no reports of injuries. Had we not turned back to the Kingsway due to the traffic accident, we could have been in the middle of the burst instead of on the edge. Hence the luck I spoke of earlier.

From time to time Sudbury gets hit with adverse weather events. Lets hope this does not become a habit.

Our route across town:

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