Quite a lot of damage was done in this district by Saturday evening’s storm. A twister coming in from the south westerly direction through Percy Stanley’s bush blew down and up-rooted trees on its way, tore the roof off Mr. Stanley’s machine shed and gable end door off the bam. It cut a swath of maple trees through the centre of J. F. Smithson’s sugar bush, then on to Clifford Smith’s where a number of trees near the house were blown over and some on the side road which had to be cleared Saturday evening to allow cars to go by.
At Howard Lowry’s the silo was partly blown in, a drive shed moved about a foot off the foundation, the wagon rack lifted off, and the hind wheels turned upside down and the reach made of white oak only a year ago twisted and broken. The litter carrier was lifted off the tracks and set down a distance in the yard. An apple tree was carried across the road and set down in J. D. Smithson’s field. A large tree a few feet from J. D. Smithson’s house was struck by lightning and at Russell Lowe’s a number of trees were blown over, one missing the pump house by inches. A window pane in the house was broken and flowers pulled out by the roots at the side of the house. All are thankful no life was lost .
A freak electrical storm, accompanied by a veritable cloud burst that lasted for about ten minutes and then settled down to a tapering off rain, started a little after seven o’clock on Monday evening. The late afternoon had been oppressive with a humid heat that presaged a thunderstorm or perhaps hail.
Dark clouds blew up from the Huntley Township direction and others from the southeast seemed to meet in an overhead area and then things got going with hair-raising flashes of lightning and ear-splitting peals of thunder. A few minutes after the storm broke and two or three crashes and flashes frightened people off their front porches, the fire siren was heard. The firemen had to turn out in the midst of one of the worst downpours of rain anyone can remember.
The phone call to the fire station stated that the steeple of the Reformed Presbyterian Church on the Bay Hill had been struck by lightning and that smoke was pouring from its base. Firemen had water turned on in record time. They had to chop a hole in the wooden portion of the tower to get at the flames. The spire is covered with steel as is the roof. No great damage was done to the interior of the building as the tower was cut off from below by closed trap doors.
The storm was accompanied by a high wind that uprooted trees, littered lawns with limbs and cut off the power in the southern side of the town where branches fell across the wires. A strange thing about the visitation is that on the north side of the river there was little or no interference with the light service but there was a black-out on the business streets. Those stores which keep open in the evenings such as druggists’ were dark except for the odd candle or flashlight.
In the O’Brien Theatre it wasn’t hard to live up to the ancient slogan “the show must go on.” In the days of the power shortage during the last war the Ottawa Valley Amusement Co. installed gasoline driven electrical generators in their four theatres. So all the local manager had to do was turn on the machinery and the audience which happened to have got there ahead of the storm, were kept entertained.
It seemed strange on the pitch dark street to see the O’Brien main entrance lights and the sign blazing out like lone beacons. It is said that in the Legion and Hotel Almonte beverage room the boys quaffed their beer by lantern or candle light which imparted a sort of Old Country atmosphere to the places that is not present under ordinary circumstances.
A softball game was going on at the time the storm broke and those in the grandstand had a splendid view of the lightning as it flashed in the distance across the river, and sometimes too close for comfort. At least one member of the audience—a fireman—had to plunge forth into the deluge when the siren blew.
A strange thing about the rainfall, which some middle aged people declare was the heaviest they ever remember, is that there were only a few drops at the Auld Kirk Cemetery on the Eighth Line while the Anglican Cemetery, half way out from the town boundary, was in the very wet zone.
It is not known what capers were cut by the storm but it is known that it was not bad in Ottawa and while they had a heavy rain in Perth and other points in the county there was no severe storm. The maintenance staff of the Almonte Public Utilities Commission had to turn out in the midst of the downpour as did the firemen. They had a mean job but they got the lights on in the business section about 8.30, for which they deserve a lot of credit when the amount of damage to the wires over a wide section is taken into consideration.
They went off several times after that for short intervals and doubtless the electricians had to work nearly all night trying to repair the damage. From the standpoint of power users on the south side of the
river, it was fortunate that the storm struck in the evening when motors and machinery were closed down.
Several large trees on Country Street in front of the home of Mr. Robt. Smithson, town foreman, were uprooted. It is estimated he will get five or six cords of wood out of the trunks and limbs although there is no doubt he would rather have the trees standing where they were. A fine big maple was uprooted in front of the residence of Mr. Gordon Houston.
The story is told of one merchant on Mill Street who was creeping around his premises in the darkness holding a flashlight. Suddenly he came in front of a mirror and yelled, “help, help, there’s a robber in here!”
It was a wild and woolly week in Eastern Ontario last weekend, and as I write this some folks still do not have power in our area. As I looked at the forecast last Saturday morning for a Royal Tea at noon I never expected the line of storms headed our way would soon strengthen into Canada’s first derecho in decades. This particular storm did nothing but wreak havoc across Ontario and Quebec. It was the strongest derecho storm in Canada this century, blasting Ontario and Quebec on Saturday with winds peaking at 190 km/h in Ottawa, killing at least 11 people.
Years ago as a child I used to sit on top of a pile of lumber at Dion’s Lumber yard next door and watch what everyone called “heat lightning”. I don’t see it anymore and wonder why, and then I learned that there is really no such thing as “heat lightning.” What we were actually seeing was flashes of light reflecting off of clouds from lightning in a distant thunderstorm.
When lightning was heard overhead things would shut down in our house. We had to turn off the television and close the venetian blinds so the lightning would not wrap itself around them. To those that thought the latter was an old wives tale– it wasn’t. I saw it happen many times. So, we were all told to sit still in a chair with very little physical movement like the 2013 film Don’t Move. I was sure that if the lightning hit it would accidentally unleash a demonic force that might rip our family apart. So, my mother rattled the piano keys at thunderous levels playing Glenn Miller songs while the storm raged on.
Meanwhile down the street some of my friends were not allowed to wash dishes or take a bath because lightning could travel through your pipes. Using any part of your home’s plumbing was a risk during an electrical storm. Fireballs had been seen flying out of faucets, and you didn’t dare get near electrical outlets. My Mother sometimes used to open all the doors and windows to let the thunder ball out if such a thing decided to go down the chimney. Her cousin had been struck by lightning, so I suppose she held that fear all that time.
If you were in the basement during a storm you better not be barefoot according to my Grandmother, or you would get shocked. It was due to some story about our Cowansville, Quebec water reservoir being built over an active spring. I held whatever I needed to hold until after the storm as the lightning was supposed to come and rise up through the toilet and tickle your backside, or something like that. Take off any clothes that had zippers because the metal attracted lightning and hiding under your bed should be a last resort, as box springs were metal. It’s a wonder we weren’t all on “happy drugs”!
Talking on the phone was a no no as lightning travelled down the wires and the crackles on the phone line could make you deaf. One storm had supposedly fried all the phones on South Street, but no one had ever admitted their phone had been totaled, but the local folks still believed it.
Hanging out at the park was forbidden during a storm as you were made to get out of the pool instantly if anyone heard a rumble. Of course the person that began this rumour was the same lady that told me I couldn’t go swimming after eating because I would get cramps and drown. That lifeguard had heard that little bit of advice from our Mothers that brought us there, and she didn’t want to get in trouble with them.
My Mother used to tell me that her Mother used to draw the sign of the cross on the window glass and mirrors in the house, and also on her forehead, to prevent the strike of lightning. All I could think of was that she was mixing up religion with lightning rods, and I still say a church that has a lightning rod is truly a lack of confidence.
The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 12,000, but scientists say climate change may increase the chances to about 1 in 8,000 by the year 2100. That’s fine I won’t be alive by then, but I do ask that others make the right decision about not getting struck by lightning. Could all those Mothers and Grandmothers be completely wrong with their stories? Remember, the road of life is paved with a lot of flat squirrels that couldn’t make a decision.
Damage that can be done by a hurricane such as visited this continent last Saturday is unpredictable and terrifying. Almonte got off lightly in comparison with some other places. Here the wind reached its high point about eleven o’clock Saturday night when it ripped many roofs off buildings, felled trees, blew down a barn owned by Mr. Harold Robertson opposite the Rosamond Memorial Hospital, and did a lot of strange and awful things that were most unexpected.
The first property in Almonte to suffer serious damage here on Saturday was the grandstand at the fair grounds. The wind took off part of the roof and back wall turning it back and breaking electric light wires on Water Street. At night the roofing on top of the building occupied by the Bell Telephone Co. took wing and carried with it part of the roof atop the building owned by Mr. P. A. Greig, K.C., the main floor of which houses the Royal Bank.
Other buildings to suffer from torn roofs were those owned by R. J. France, the Hartley Woollen Mills, the Rosamond Woolen Co., the Almonte Garage and the Almonte Flour Mills which suffered loss of a chimney. The Baptist Church also was a victim of the storm when a chimney was blown over. There were many cases of roof damage which are too numerous to mention. Trees uprooted Mr. George L. Comba’s yard and he lost seven trees on his property but none of their downfalls damaged his house.
In the New England section, Mr. Winslow-Spragge of New Burnside had a queer visitation. A tree blew over which had its roots under oil pipes leading from an outside tank to his furnace. When this happened the pipes were broken and he lost about 500 gals, of fuel. It is hard to estimate the -over all damage done but it will run well over $10,000. Many people had wind insurance while some had none. The rain that accompanied and followed the wind storm added to the loss of those people whose roofs were damaged. Temporary repairs have been made in most cases and will be left that way until the warm weather of spring makes it possible to make permanent repairs in the form of new roofs. A strange fact about the whole thing is that the old fashioned shingle roofs seemed to stand up better under the strain than the new kind
During the big storm of Wednesday last, considerable damage was done in this neighbourhood by lightning. Mr. Patrick Kelly, Huntley, had a barn, stable, and shed burnt, and along with them a horse, 3 pigs, 100 bushels oats, 25 bushels wheat, 3 tons hay, a plough, some harness and a sleigh. There was no insurance on the premises, and great sympathy is felt for Mr. Kelly in his misfortune. In town a man named Gleason was knocked to the ground by an electric shock, while another, who was standing near to him, was thrown up against a wall close by. We hear that a woman also was , stunned by the same shock. Mr. John Kearny had a horse killed by lightning during the storm last week, while out in the field harrowing. There was also a water spout in the river nearby the town hall to the amazement of many.
Perhaps the most violent and certainly the most destructive hail, wind and rainstorm ever to pass over this section, wrought heavy damage this afternoon. At 4.15, the storm broke and for ten minutes there was a steady downpour of hail and rain, some of the hailstones being larger than walnuts. For another ten or 15 minutes after the hall ceased a deluge of rain continued to fall. The storm was confined to the section between the second and eighth concessions of Ramsay and petered out a mile east of Carleton Place.In this territory a vast amount of damage was done, grain and corn crops being cut down and laid flat on the ground and what appeared early today as a record crop is almost a total loss. In Carleton Place, a large electric transformer was burned out and many wires were blown down, causing a shutdown of power for a couple of hours, for almost half the town. In the path of the storm many windows were smashed but the greatest damage in this connection was in Carleton Place. At the High School, 127 windows were smashed, by hail, while in the Hawthorn mill, Godwin’s photographic studio and Morris’ greenhouse almost every pane of glass exposed to the west was destroyed.1938The damage in broken windows in the country was also very heavy. About a mile east of the town the high wind carried off the roof of one of the barns on the farm of W. E. McNeely on the eleventh line of Beckwith and distributed it over the fields for a distance of over 200 yards. All the wooden fences on this farm were also laid low by the force of the wind. In the farm homes of Samuel and William Burns on the western edge of the town, over 40 windows were broken. So heavy was the rainfall that a section of Bridge street was flooded for a time with water four and five inches deep on the pavements, only the brief duration of the storm saving a number of stores being flooded. Just about a year ago a similar freakish storm tore the roof off the Queen’s Hotel and dropped It on Bridge street, completely burying a number ofcars parked in the area.The Storm of 1938
Slight shock was suffered by occupants when lightning struck the home of Patrick Carroll on Union street in Almonte, during a violent electric storm Tuesday afternoon. Little damage was done to the house. A large power meter was shattered, halting operations for two hours, at the Peterson Ice Cream plant, when it was also struck by lightning. The downpour of rain was accompanied by hail and at Bennies Corners, four miles away, considerable damage to crops was caused. Numerous trees in the vicinity were uprooted by the force of the gale.
Baker’s Grove, near Almonte which has long been used as a playground suffered greatly due to the storm. Many tree roots were uprooted or broke and the whole place looked like “No mans Land’. Crops were flattened in many parts of the area.
Shortly after one o’clock Tuesday afternoon lightning struck the barn of Mr. Wm. Liddle on the fifth concession of Lanark township near Middleville and the fire which resulted quickly destroyed all the outbuildings and the entire season’s crop. Due to the rain Mr. Liddle-and the family were in the house when the crash of lightning was heard and on looking out the barn was a mass of flames. Neighbors quickly gathered but practically nothing was saved.
The windmill on the farm of Mr;. R. H. Rodger was blown down during the storm which swept over this community.
In 1937 an electrical storm worthy of Dorothy’s tornadoes roared into town in the early afternoon of August 20th. High winds literally ripped off the steel roof of the Queen’s hotel in Carleton Place. The roof just didn’t fly into the air quietly. It firmly deposited itself in front of the hotel on Bridge Street. Blinding lightening were followed by high winds and torrential rain.
Luckily only four cars had close calls from being partially crushed by the heavy metal that flew threw the air. The cars of Miss Florence MacIntyre and Mr. William Rathwell suddenly found parts of the Queen’s Hotel roof on top of their cars, but only sustained light damage. A portion of the roof fell on top of the car of Mr. Lloyd McGregor of Kirkland Lake who was just passing through town at the time. His car escaped with little damage.
On Rear Street five large trees were uprooted and fell completely blocking the street. There were many broken windows through town and when a tree blew down in front of Mrs. Robert Legerwood’s car she backed away from it only to have another tree fall in back of her. Mr. William Saunders of the same street had his car completely buried by falling trees and debris.
The Queen’s Hotel estimated the loss was about $8000 with the damage of the roof and the heavy rain which seeped through the rooms of the three-storey building. The storm put the complete electric service of the town out of commission for about three hours and some of the town was out until the next day. Owing to the shut-off in electric power The Carleton Place Canadian was not able to go to press until 9 o’clock that evening on the day of the storm.
No local photos but this was just along the border– same storm July 1938
The last week of July of 1938 the mother of all storms hit Carleton Place and area with walnut size hail riddling windows, greenhouses and schools. Storm clouds came out of the northwest and covering a strip approximately six miles in width, dumped a cascade of hail on Carleton Place and district at 4:15 in the afternoon causing thousands of dollars damage to property and grain crops.
Hundreds of panes of glass in manufacturing concerns, greenhouses and private residences were reported smashed in the survey made following the thunder storm. In the Carleton Place High School about 127 panes were blown out by the hail which fell for ten minutes in pellets the size of walnuts. The hail was accompanied by heavy winds which caused damage to farm crops. Lightning struck a hydro transformer in Carleton Place disrupting power facilities for two hours in the rural districts of Ramsay and Beckwith and the wind blew down big trees, fences and carried the roof of a barn 200 yards.
In Carleton Place, a large electric transformer was burned out and many wires were blown down, causing a shutdown of power for a couple of hours, for almost half the town. In the path of the storm many windows were smashed but the greatest damage in this connection was in Carleton Place. In the Hawthorn mill, Godwin’s photographic studio and Morris’ greenhouse had every pane of glass exposed to the west was destroyed.
Hilda Morris, along with her husband Merv, operated “M.P. Morris Flowers” from their McArthur Avenue home for over 25 years, opening in 1935. The first florist shop in Carleton Place, it survived a major set back in 1940 when an electrical storm demolished their greenhouse and all their plants, flowers and cuttings.-Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
The damage in broken windows in the country was also very heavy. About a mile east of the town the high wind carried off the roof of one of the barns on the farm of W. E. McNeely on the eleventh line of Beckwith and distributed it over the fields for a distance of over 200 yards. All the wooden fences on this farm were also laid low by the force of the wind. In the farm homes of Samuel and William Burns on the western edge of the town, over 40 windows were broken. So heavy was the rainfall that a section of Bridge street was flooded for a time with water four and five inches deep on the pavements, only the brief duration of the storm saving a number of stores being flooded. Just about a year ago a similar freakish storm tore the roof off the Queen’s Hotel and dropped it on Bridge street, completely burying a number of cars parked in the area.
Almonte Gazette August 1938
August 19, 1937 – 76 years ago this week. A giant rain and wind storm blew the tin roof right off the Queen’s Hotel and plunked it in the middle of Bridge Street- Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum
Postcard from the collection of Doris Blackburn/ Karen Black Chenier
On July 9, 1913 Earl Thias, 16, was instantly killed when struck by a bolt of lightning during an electrical storm. He was seated on a wagon in a barn and lightning travelled down a rafter, striking him on the head. A crowd of men who were in the barn at the time, and each one of them was burned and shocked. A heavy gold watch worn by Abe Fielder was melted. Six horses, one cow and a mule valued at $2,000 were killed within a few feet 1913 of the men.
It took me awhile to find anything about this story on the postcard as people spelled lightening different ways. But, it did happen. Yes, this freak of nature did occur, and why they put it on a post card boggles my mind. But I had to document such a rare postcard.
The Smith’s Falls Echo of Wednesday had the following article:
Yesterday afternoon between four and five o’clock Smith’s Falls had an experience never before witnessed—at least not within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Threatening dark clouds loomed up rather suddenly, and soon the rain commenced. After a little it was mixed with hail. A few minutes more and it gathered force, the hail and rain fairly tumbling down, until the streets from sidewalk to sidewalk were like raging rivers.
The hail at first was about the size of marbles, but after a little the size increased until as large as pigeons’ eggs, with an occasional one as large as a hen’s egg. This continued for a good half hour, when it ceased as suddenly as it began, and the floods went down. The sultriness was gone and the carpet of round balls necessarily gave a healthy arctic tone to the atmosphere.
The gardens were practically ruined, and the destruction of glass was immense, considering there was only a moderate find at the time. Every bit of glass in the skylights of the four photograph galleries in town was smashed, and even the heavy plate in the skylight of Rideau Chambers succumbed.
Nearly every house suffered more, or less. St. Andrew’s church suffered with the rest. Fortunately the area of the hail storm was not large. On the west of the town it scarcely extended beyond the houses ; on the north it did not extend to the semaphore, though Shawville seemed to be the centre of it ; it only extended out the Lombardy road a short distance; down the river on the south side there was rain only; on the north side the hail reached as far down as Peter Moir’s, where it did considerable damage. We have been told that E. Lemix, J. Foster and one or two others on that line will be heavy losers owing to the destruction of crops.