As the skies darkened and the wind began to howl on Saturday, Ann Baker was sprinkling holy water in her garden and trusting a small statue of the Virgin Mary.
There was a moment – when the branches were circling around and the windows were so slammed with rain that she couldn’t see outside – when she looked at her husband and thought ‘here we go again’.
Four years ago, a tornado ripped through the power corridor behind his home on Aurora Crescent and, like a magnet, sucked a 12-foot-tall maple tree into his front yard, turning it into “matches” in moments. seconds.
We’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.– Ann Baker
What was left of the tree crashed into the house where Baker had lived with his family for 35 years.
“He took the roof off, the chimney, the back patio and blew out the furnace, then cracked the foundation, then we had a flood,” she said Wednesday.
The family faced tens of thousands of dollars in non-insurance repairs.
A large flower garden has since taken the place of the tree, but amid the constant hum of generators and bundles of broken branches piled up all around the street this week, the memories have remained for residents who have been brought back until in 2018.
The Manordale-Woodvale area was hit again last weekend when a destructive and deadly windstorm slammed into Ottawa, leaving tens of thousands of people in the city without power.
“I don’t think I’m cursed or we’re cursed,” Baker said. “We’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Despite being hit by tornadoes and high winds, those who live along Aurora Crescent say they have no plans to leave and credit their neighbors for giving them the strength to resist whatever comes their way.
“Your neighbors are good neighbours”
Follow an extension cord that winds up from Baker’s garage and you’ll find a running generator in Denise Haney’s carport next door.
You know when they say lightning doesn’t strike twice? Well it is.-Denise Haney
She’s been there for 32 years, a tenure that includes the 1998 ice storm. When the tornado hit four years ago, she took some of her patio furniture with her. It left something behind – the top four and a half meters of a tree pierced its roof.
This week’s storm saw more tree damage and more damaged patio furniture, according to Haney.
“You know when they say lightning doesn’t strike twice? she asked. “Well, it is. We know that now.”
In the aftermath of the storm, the street came alive with neighbors coming out of their homes to check on others and lend a hand, sharing chainsaws and generators, residents said.
Haney said she had no plans to leave, despite being hit hard twice.
“[Storms] are scary but…neighbourhoods make a big difference,” she said. “If you’re with…people who are helping, that’s what’s really important right now.”
Bob Scott lives a few doors down and remembers the tornado shaking power lines, then roaring with a noise like a transport truck.
He was largely spared in 2018, but the pile of tree branches he amassed now shows that storm was a different story.
A neighbor’s tree split in two and crashed into his yard, and he lost a spruce tree in the backyard, but Scott counts himself lucky when it comes to cleanup.
“It was kind of like a community effort…and everyone was trying to help everyone else,” he said.
“It gives you a good sense of security and your neighbors are good neighbours.”
“Our little insurance policy”
A massive maple tree still stands in Baker’s yard. It dropped a few branches on Saturday, which crashed into the roof and deck that had come after the tornado.
There’s a big dent in the railing, but that’s the only real mark left by the derecho.
Despite everything the family has been through, Baker has a secret weapon under the tree that she trusts to protect them.
It is a statue of the Virgin Mary, adding that they are “blessed” because even when other trees were destroyed, this maple stood its ground.
“I couldn’t find any rhyme or reason except that the Virgin Mary protected her,” she said.
“It’s our own little insurance policy, and a great one.”