Damage to vehicles on Haist Street, north of Hwy 20, in Fonthill. DON RICKERS

The evening sky was punctuated with bolts of lightning last Wednesday night, caused by a system of cool air pushing into the region, ending the heat warning that had been in effect for the prior two days. The resultant storm brought high winds and thunderstorms by around 10 PM. Power outages were reported across the region, including in parts of Fonthill, where many were left without power overnight.

Environment Canada had issued a severe thunderstorm watch and predicted wind gusts up to 100 kilometres per hour. Several hydro poles were damaged, resulting in the power losses. Both electricity providers servicing Pelham (Hydro One and NPEI) dispatched crews to attend to the damage.

A snapped utility pole at Haist St. and Highway 20 in Fonthill. DON RICKERS

The Town of Pelham issued a news release, stating that the storm cell impacted localized areas within Pelham and several areas received extensive damage due to high winds and falling trees.

Fire Chief Bob Lymburner told the Voice that Pelham Fire crews responded shortly after the storm commenced, and did a commendable job clearing roads of debris, such that by 2 PM Thursday most roads were open, although Haist Street at Highway 20 remained closed until Thursday night due to a hydro pole replacement.

Hydro One media representative Alicia Sayers told the Voice that approximately 4,300 customers in Pelham and the surrounding area experienced a power outage late Wednesday night.

“Our crews worked overnight to remove a tree from a line, and replace four broken poles in order to restore power to all customers at 3:46 AM Thursday,” said Sayers. “As crews restored power to the main power line, they found additional damage from trees that fell on secondary power lines in the area. As a result, some of our customers experienced more than one outage.”

A repair crew surveys a fallen limb in the Fonthill Cemetery. RIC GRETSINGER

Approximately 1,200 customers experienced a second outage on Thursday, from 6 AM until 1 PM due to a tree on a power line, and a broken crossarm on a hydro pole. Two hundred and ninety customers experienced a third outage the same day from 2:40 PM to 3:20 PM.

“We understand how difficult it is to be without power, and thank our customers for their patience, as Hydro One crews worked tirelessly to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Sayers.

NPEI had about 350 customers in Pelham affected by the storm. Communications Co-ordinator Ethan Frahey told the Voice that on Thursday some clients were still without service, but were expected to have power restored by 4 PM.

Felled trees on Baker Place, Fonthill. LEN WRIGHT

Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin told the Voice that, “Pelham, like many other Ontario communities, had quite a severe storm pass through a very small part of the town Wednesday night. We very lucky, in that there were no reports of any personal injuries sustained, which was quite remarkable, given the amount of damage on Haist Street alone.”

Director of Public Works Jason Marr said that the storm cut a swath through Fonthill, from Pancake Lane north to Hurricane Road, with many trees and branches down along Haist Street and Canboro Road.

“We had all hands on deck early Thursday morning,” said Marr, “a team effort between the volunteers at Fire Stations 1 and 2, as well as our Public Works road staff crews. The priority is to just get the roadways clear, and then reassess with all staff and plan the full cleanup and removal process.”

Pelham CAO David Cribbs paid tribute to the Town employees who responded to the weather-induced crisis.

“For many in the municipal world, the opportunity to shine occurs when things are at their worst,” he said. “So it was for both the Town’s Fire Department and Public Works Departments during the storm event of Wednesday night, Thursday morning. Staff worked through the night, after a regular work day, and then also worked the next regular work day. They were spelled off as required by law. Town staff from both departments responded by midnight, and worked until approximately 3 AM, at which point many went home for a couple hours of sleep, returning again at 4:30 AM or 5 AM, depending on the person’s role.”

Cribbs noted that while the worst of the emergency clean-up has been accomplished, it will take days, and for some tasks, weeks and months, to address all of the tree-related maintenance work.

“Unfortunately, the Town has lost many trees as a result of this storm. There will be significant costs associated with pruning, cutting, stump grinding, and ultimately replanting efforts. Hillside Cemetery was particularly hit hard. The foregoing will be the subject of upcoming council reports, once we have a handle on costs and implications.”

A key component of what makes Pelham a great community, said Cribbs, is the willingness of staff and volunteers to meet whatever challenges appear before them.

“I wish to publicly acknowledge, thank, and congratulate the dedicated staff and volunteers who tackled the very dangerous work required to make the roads safe and passable while the rest of us were likely happy to be inside, safe in our beds. An important job well done.”