Deadly storm in Ontario and Quebec wreaks havoc on urban trees

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An arborist specializing in urban forestry says the massive loss of trees in Ontario and Quebec over the weekend due to a severe storm will continue if land use planning does not change. dr.

An arborist specializing in urban forestry says the massive loss of trees in Ontario and Quebec over the weekend due to a severe storm will continue if land use planning does not change.

Dr. Danijela Puric-Mladenovic, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said she was not surprised when thousands of trees were uprooted and destroyed by the deadly storm that swept across the province on Saturday because Urban and suburban trees are planted in very shallow soil.

“There is no deep root system developed,” said Puric-Mladenovic, who has seen dozens of trees felled in his subdivision of Whitby, Ont. “Because we plant trees that come from nurseries, whose root ball has already been cut a million times.

“Then you plant them in compressed soil, literally like bedrock, and they try to develop surface roots for food, but there’s no stability.”

Puric-Mladenovic said the effect is like a sailboat catching a gust of wind without a daggerboard going deep underwater to balance the craft.

Strong winds blew away trees and utility poles on Saturday, leading to widespread power outages. Electricity providers warned customers on Tuesday that they could wait days for service to be fully restored.

Hydro Ottawa reported that about 74,000 customers were still without power as of noon Tuesday, while provincial utility Hydro One had more than 148,000 customers still affected by outages.

The Ontario communities of Uxbridge, northeast of Toronto, as well as Clarence-Rockland and Greater Madawaska Township, east and west of Ottawa, respectively, remain under a state of emergency due to damage , with some buildings reduced to rubble and streets blocked by uprooted trees, downed power lines and broken telephone poles.

The death toll in Ontario rose to at least 10 on Monday, with police in Peterborough confirming that a 61-year-old man from Lakefield died during the storm after being hit by a falling tree.

“What a tragedy, what happened this weekend, with this storm, so widespread,” Progressive Conservative Party Leader Doug Ford, who is running for re-election as premier of Ontario, said Tuesday morning. , during a campaign stop. “I just want to send my prayers and thoughts to the families who have lost loved ones.

“I also want to thank the utility workers who are working tirelessly and have canceled their long weekend. They are all champions and I am very, very grateful for all their hard work.”

Hydro One said the damage included more than 1,400 broken poles, 300 broken cross beams and nearly 200 damaged transformers as well as “countless trees”.

Hydro Ottawa’s chief executive said Monday his distribution system had been “crushed,” noting the 187 poles knocked down during the storm not only exceed the number the city traditionally knocks down in a year, but also exceeds the number knocked down during the 1998 ice storm and 2018 tornado.

Puric-Mladenovic said housing estates built after the 1960s typically add trees after the fact to the topsoil to support grass and gardens.

“We can go replant and they will grow for the next 30 to 35 years or so,” she said. “And then we will have another storm and we will be in the same situation.”

The lack of power prompted the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to close all schools and daycare centers on Tuesday due to ongoing safety concerns posed by the storm, telling parents in a notice that about half of their schools were without electricity.

On the other side of the province, Hydro-Québec reported about 1,600 outages affecting more than 120,000 customers, mainly in the Laurentians, where 69,495 customers were still without power, as well as in the Outaouais and Lanaudière, Tuesday noon.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 24, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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