Toppled trees smash into homes

This aged maple tree on Stanley Avenue smashed into a home Aug. 24 and ripped up the sidewalk. Downed trees and branches saw more than 12,000 Entegrus customers lose power that night, after heavy rain and a wind shear ripped through the community.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Three minutes.

That all that stood between Nancy Kamarlingos and a towering maple tree that fell on her house during Thursday evening’s ferocious storm.

The Gregory Drive resident said she was in her living room with the hydro out when she received the tornado warning alert on her cellphone. After looking out the front window, she made the decision to move to the back of the house. Husband Nick was already in bed.

“I went to the back and two or three minutes later, the tree came down,” Kamarlingos said, noting the incident happened around 11:15 p.m. in the north Chatham neighbourhood.

Mere minutes after a tornado warning on her cellphone prompted Nancy Kamarlingos to retreat from the front of her house on Gregory Drive, this large tree smashed into her home, hitting right where she had recently been standing.

Ironically, the couple, which has lived in the bungalow since 2021, just completed a major renovation – including putting on a new roof – earlier this week.

But Kamarlingos isn’t complaining.

“I feel fortunate,” she told The Voice while waiting in her yard Friday morning for the insurance company to show up.

“Nobody was hurt,” Kamarlingos added. “A house can be rebuilt…it is what it is.”

The Gregory Drive couple weren’t the only people to have a tree fall on their house in the intense weather. A small house on Stanley Avenue was also crushed by a large tree. Neighbours said the lone female resident had to be rescued by Chatham-Kent Fire and Rescue, however, that was unconfirmed as of press time.

Elsewhere in the same neighbourhood, a maple was toppled across Murray Street blocking vehicle access to the Victoria Park Place homeless shelter.

The storm wreaked havoc across Southwestern Ontario, and Chatham appeared to have more than its fair share of damage. The sound of chainsaws could be heard buzzing throughout the city as people began what may prove to be an extensive cleanup.

Chatham-Kent was also hard hit by power outages. According to Tomo Matesic, vice-president of engineering and operations for Entegrus, more than 12,000 customers were without power after the storm in Chatham alone. Outages were also reported in Tilbury, Bothwell and Erieau.

Matesic said crews worked throughout the night with help from Entegrus’ St. Thomas division and Bluewater Power from Sarnia.

“Thanks to the teams that helped us,” Matesic said, noting the damage was “exclusively caused” by downed trees and limbs, with north Chatham being especially impacted.

This beech tree on Victoria Avenue was decimated by the storm.

The utility would like to remind residents to avoid downed power lines. Matesic said the rule of thumb is to stay back 35 feet, or the length of school bus, in order to stay safe.

Matesic noted it’s been a rough year weatherwise, with a high number of extreme weather events.

Environment Canada reports no tornado touched down, but instead listed the incident as a downburst.

Residents cleaned up on Friday, and through the weekend.


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