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Storm clean-up impresses in the most hard-hit neighbourhoods

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Cathy Dobson 

Carol Wilson was sitting in her family room when a powerful gust of wind blew a screen off her open window and directly at her face.

“It came right at me and I realized the storm was bad,” Wilson said, describing the moment a 50-foot linden tree became uprooted from her boulevard and crashed down inches from her house.

Carol Wilson describing the moment an enormous tree narrowly missed her house. (Cathy Dobson photo)

“I ran out and the tree was already down,” she said. “It landed over the top of our deck but we were very, very lucky. It only broke two lights.”

Wilson lives on Oakdale Avenue, the epicentre of the powerful downburst that uprooted more than 100 trees on July 20.

The storm left her street covered with fallen maples, lindens, and sycamores planted along the boulevards by the city at least 50 years ago. Many other trees on private property were damaged or uprooted as well.

Forestry supervisor Brian Sandiland. (Cathy Dobson photo)

As soon as the winds died down, the city’s team of eight arborists headed out to assess the damage and begin clearing the streets, said Brian Sandiland, supervisor of Sarnia’s forestry and horticulture department.

His team is still out there. Crews worked through the weekend and are putting in 12 hour days despite soaring temperatures this week.

It’s expected they’ll be cutting up and chipping trees for another two to three weeks, Sandiland said.

He was hired by the City of Sarnia only a month ago and said the response of Sarnians following the storm has been gratifying.

“I’ve only been here a short time and to see so many neighbours out helping neighbours right after the storm, moving brush and assisting elderly residents, says a lot about this city,” Sandiland said. 

Wilson is also impressed by the response from city crews, Bluewater Power and Cogeco.

“We spent Friday moving brush and the crews were here Saturday to take it away,” she said.  

Arborists Shawn Cathcart, left, and Tyler Campbell with a telescopic chainsaw remove a fallen linden tree. (Cathy Dobson photo)

Bluewater Power arrived Thursday night to start repairs on a power line that was taken out by a massive tree across the street from Wilson.

“They worked all night and our hydro was back on by 5 a.m.,” she said. “I told the guys how impressed I am.

“They have so much to do. I am very, very impressed by this city.”

The city’s tree canopy took a big hit from the recent storm, primarily because so many older trees were lost, said Sandiland.

“At 70 or 80 years old, the trees can’t handle storms like this,” he said. “We need to get planting. Sarnia is going to get a lot more wind events like this in the future.”

Sandiland said he hopes his crew of arborists will be planting dozens of new trees next spring to replace the dozens of stately mature trees they’re clearing away this week.

“We’ve lost over 100 trees, easy,” he said. “And that doesn’t even include the parks.”

Assessing tree damage in the parks will come later.

Sidewalks throughout the city were lifted by uprooted trees and will require extensive repair work. (Cathy Dobson photo)
Adam Lajoie feeds the wood chipper with one of many large trees lost in Thursday’s storm. (Cathy Dobson photo)
Central Sarnia is filled with the sound of chainsaws this week, like the one used here by arborist Cory King. (Cathy Dobson photo)


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