by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A windstorm rocked much of the local area on the evening of December 11 and the overnight hours of December 12, doing significant damage to trees, property, and hydro equipment, and, reportedly, leaving about 450,000 Ontario homes without power. Over 200,000 homes were still without power as of Sunday morning, and over 80,000 were still waiting to get their lights back on as of Sunday night.
Many area communities were lucky to have electricity throughout the event, with few to no reported outages in Winchester and Kemptville, and only minor outages reported in Chesterville. Other areas were not so lucky, particularly South Mountain, where power was lost to all homes early Saturday evening into Sunday on all streets except those in the newer subdivision on the village’s south side. The outage was caused by a downed power line and blown transformer on Lough Road on the Village’s northern edge.
Winchester storm chaser and photographer, Connor Mockett, who is known by many locally for his Facebook page which provides weather insights, told the Times that Environment Canada’s report on the storm did not include statistics for the North Dundas area. “I know there were a few small power outages around North Dundas, but I don’t have any wind speed statistics for any areas other than Winchester,” Connor said. He reported that the highest measured wind gust locally was one in Winchester clocked at 66km/h. “I’m sure there were much higher gusts than that in the area, but no reports of exact numbers.” Many parts of Ontario, including some within the service jurisdiction of Hydro One, experienced winds gusts over 100km/h.
One positive thing to come out of the storm was the willingness of many members of the community to help others, particularly in the hard-hit area of South Mountain. One kind woman, Heather Zwicker, posted on the local South Mountain Facebook page offering her warm kitchen to anyone needing a place to prepare a meal for their family. Her home is located outside of the area affected by the outage, so she still had heat and hydro, and offered the use of her kettles, oven/stove, and barbecue.
“I started to think of the downed trees during Ice Storm of 1998, and how this storm could affect our area,” Heather told the Times. “I thought, with me being a simple straight road’s drive away, why not offer up my kitchen? I like making people feel better, because their smiles make me feel good.”
Another South Mountain resident, Matthew Penner, lost power, but still had heat from a wood-burning stove, and offered his home for anyone needing to get out of the cold.
“It just seemed clear that it was the right thing to do,” Matthew said, when asked why he chose to help. “We may not have had power, but we had heat, and wanted to make sure no one went without it.”
The majority of the local power outages were restored by the end of the day on Sunday.