Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Dave Ferguson says it is amazing no one was injured.
Alvinston took a major hit Thursday afternoon as a storm crashed through the East Lambton community leaving streets littered with trees and crashing into some buildings.
Christina Podolinsky was in her Morrell Street home with her two kids when the when the wind started picking up. At 4:16 pm, an Tornado Warning blared through her phone. By 4:35 pm, the storm had knocked down her fence and given her quite a scare.
“It was like a freight train like, between kids screaming and me screaming, it sounded like like like a train,” she told The Independent as neighbours cut up a large pine tree which was blocking the street near her home.
Brooke Fire Rescue Volunteer Trevor Oke was on his way home from vacation when the storm hit. “I was driving and it was scary; it was scary,” he said shaking his head.
What awaited in Alvinston was just as bad. A large pine tree had fallen on his parents home. Oke didn’t think it had done a lot of damage the house, but it was startling. In a couple of hours, the tree had been removed.
At Hope United Church, volunteers were on the roof, cutting branches which had fallen. Pastor Jim Breen pointed out a large branch which had poked a hole through the roof of the building.
The church hosts summer camps and Breen says they’ll move to St. Andrew’s Church in Cairo Friday for the closing day.
Several members of Brooke-Alvinston council were at the fire hall for a public meeting when the storm hit. Councillor Jenny Redick says first the antenna at the fire hall fell, hitting the side of the building. Then, she looked out the window.
“There was a little white Volkswagen and it was moving off the ground and I asked whose car it was and the lady goes, ‘That’s mine.’ I said, ‘Well, it’s going.’ It’s going up and up and up (off the ground), she’s like,’ Oh, my God, my car.’ And it was just like crazy. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t know what’s happening. Things are just flying across the parking lot at the fire hall just one after another; it was like, crazy,” she says.
“It was just incredible, like the rain was just sideways. You couldn’t see out the window for the rain. Right? Like it was crazy. The wind was howling and howling.”
The meeting was called off and Redick tried to make her way home to make sure everything there was okay. Every street had at least one tree blocking the way.
She left her car at the fire hall and made her way home only to find the Memorial Garden next door was decimated. A huge willow tree was uprooted and toppled onto River Street. In the garden, two large oak trees were down, several maple trees lost half of their branches.
Neighbours brought a tractor and pulled some of the larger branches out of the garden.
Jim Alderman of Camlachie was across the street clearing the laneway of his uncle’s home. Ken Alderman had called him after hearing about the storms asking him to check on the house. The willow tree had fallen in the drive, and a branch dangled from the power line above Alderman as cut the large branch and hauled it off to the grass with the help of his wife.
The scene was repeated all around town. Power was out throughout the community and into the rural areas. Bluewater Power was on the scene and officials said around 9 pm that crews from Entergus in Strathroy would be helping to restore power in Alvinston. The utility was also dealing with outages affecting thousands of people in Sarnia.
Bluewater Power wasn’t even estimating when the power would return. “It’s very difficult to post updates in this situation as things are happening so quickly. By the time we finish typing this, things have changed in just that short time. Hang tight, know that we are doing everything we can,” said the company on social media around 11 pm. With multiple lines down across the entire community of Alvinston, it was expected to take some time.
Hydro One was also dealing with outages in the rural area. Homes were dark as far west as Little Ireland Road.
Mayor Ferguson brought his tractor into town to help clear some of the damage. “Everybody in town is chipping and getting the roads cleared off to get vehicles through and Bluewater Power is here to start looking after the wires.”
The storm cut a wide swath through Brooke-Alvinston with trees toppled along Nauvoo starting near Petrolia Line. Christina and Nick Boersema were outside with two of their children cleaning up branches at the Nauvoo Ranch. Christina wondered out loud whether a mini twister hit the area.
She says the family headed for the basement but tried to look out once. “We couldn’t open the door because it was like suction holding it.”
Further up the road, neighbours surveyed the damage at the Klassen home where a few shingles were loose and miraculously two large trees managed to miss both the yellow brick home near Rokeby Line and the car in the driveway.
GALLERY OF ALVINSTON STORM