Chelsea recovers from violent storm
More than 400 Chelsea residents sought refuge at the Meredith Centre over the May 24 weekend after a wicked storm ripped through the Gatineau Hills and left a trail of damage.
Residents filled up their water jugs, enjoyed hot coffee and took hot showers in the arena dressing rooms, after 50,000 Outaouais homes were without power and running water.
Chelsea resident Mona Leblanc visited the community centre for her morning coffee on May 23. She was one of 2,700 residents in Chelsea without power. Leblanc said she felt calm about her situation. “The electricity will come when it comes,” she said. “I have a wood stove, so I was able to keep warm and make some tea last night,” said Leblanc.
According to Environment Canada, the storm on May 21 was called a derecho. This rare weather event happens when several thunderstorms clash. A derecho can produce as much damage as a tornado. Starting in Michigan, the recent storm crossed 1,000 km through the south of Ontario and Quebec, damaging multiple power grids and properties. It also killed 10 people.
In Chelsea, violent winds pushed trees onto power lines, roads, and buildings – many of which had yet to be cleared by press time.
A large tree fell onto the roof of Greg Christies Ski and Cycle Works. Two days later, the tree still lay across its roof. According to a sign in the front yard, the sports shop is indefinitely closed for safety reasons. And many other businesses like Les Saisons Café were closed two days after the storm due to the power outage.
Chelsea mayor Pierre Guénard said that Hydro Quebec continued to assess and repair damages on May 23. He praised city employees who distributed food and water at the community centre. “What’s fantastic is that city employees are so collaborative, especially since it’s a long weekend,” said Guénard. “They didn’t ask any questions–they just showed up, ready to work.” He also spoke highly of the town’s volunteer firefighters. “They offered very quick intervention for a lot of people, and that’s very important,” said the mayor.
Ward 5 Coun. Rita Jain opened her home to those without power. "Now I have a house full of neighbours here charging their phones and showering," she said.
According to Jain, those in Farm Point, Cascades, Burnett, and Tulip Valley, still lacked electricity by press time.
"There's a lot of work to do. It's going to be a long haul," she said.
The storm impacted towns all over the Outaouais, including Val-des-Monts. During the storm, one family was in their home when trees fell onto their roof, causing it to collapse. The MRC police borrowed a neighbour’s boat to access and evacuate the pair from the dilapidated building. While the family will accrue thousands of dollars in property repairs, no one was injured, according to an MRC report.
Chelsea residents who need help accessing water and food, or those with questions, can contact volunteer services at 819-431-0088 .