A "microburst" swept through the Thousand Islands last month, uprooting trees, damaging cottages and leaving some islanders without power for days.
The storm hit the Admiralty Group of Islands particularly hard with damage to many buildings. Clean up crews were still cleaning trees several days after the microburst hit. Remarkably, no one was injured in the storm, likened to a mini-tornado.
Raymond Pfeiffer, of the nearby Punts Islands in the Lake Fleet Group, took me around the Admiralty Group of Islands for a tour in the aftermath of the microburst, which he described as one of the worst storms in the area since 1995. While it lasted only a few minutes, it's impact was much more long-lasting. Pfeiffer and his wife Yelissa's cottage was not damaged by the microburst.
Damage caused by trees was evident on most islands in the area including Hay and Tremont Islands near Gananoque. Mohawk Camp, home of author Robert Russell was one of the worst hit. All seven cabins were damaged by falling trees. Also the Stoker cottage on Tremont Island lost its second story. Almost all of the mature Oak and Maple trees on the smaller islands in line with the storm are now gone. And part of one building on Moneysunk Island was torn from its foundation and placed neatly in a pine tree.
The Fire Department patrolled the Islands literally within the hour, making inspections and actually evicting some cottage owners until power lines could be replaced. Hydro One also lost no time in coming to assist. Several of their helicopters were in the air the next morning, surveying damage and bringing in new power poles immediately following the storm. At one time there were 15 trucks and crews parked along the waterfront in Gananoque. Clean up crews were still hard at work days afterward while some cottagers were relocated to motels on the mainland to wait for power to be restored.
The day after the storm a cottage on Tremont Island was destroyed by fire. A generator appears to be the source of the fire which brought more than 30 firefighters from units in Gananoque and Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands. The fire was contained to the one cottage thanks to the use of a number of fire pumps already available on the island.
A microburst is a small, very intense downdraft that descends to the ground resulting in a strong wind divergence.
The size of the event is typically less than 4 kilometers across an area. These events are capable of producing winds of more than 100 mph causing significant damage. The life span of a microburst is around 5-15 minutes.
When rain falls below cloud base or is mixed with dry air, it begins to evaporate and this evaporation process cools the air. The cool air descends and accelerates as it approaches the ground. When the cool air approaches the ground, it spreads out in all directions and this divergence of the wind is the signature of the microburst. In humid climates, microbursts can also generate from heavy precipitation.
Three days after the storm the Thousand Islands Association held its annual Island Breakfast and Meeting at the Thousand Islands Playhouse. President Brian Jones thanked the many members who made the effort to attend even though their properties had sustained severe damage. “They came to lend their support to their neighbours and to the organization,” he exclaimed. “It makes me proud to be part of this River community”.
By Kim Lunman
Kim Lunman has been writing about the Thousand Islands since her return to her hometown of Brockville in 2008. In fact, we have published more than of Kim’s articles in TI Life. At the beginning of May 2010, Kim's new company, Thousand Islands Ink, distributed 25,000 copies of Island Life, as an insert in eastern Ontario with distribution through the EMC papers and in New York though the Thousand Islands Sun. This summer she is gathering new material for next year’s magazine. Kim toured the island shortly after the Microburst of 2010 and was truly touched by the devastation.