The other night, my husband and I went for a long evening walk. It had been a muggy, suffocating day with temperatures in the 30s (Celsius). Luckily for us, some clouds had drifted in, meaning the sun wouldn’t be baking us and making our walk a little more pleasant. A few minutes after we got home, I checked Twitter and saw some warnings: Big Storm blowing in. This wasn’t a big surprise; after the mugginess of the day, it’s the norm to expect a bit of weather to blow the heat away. It happens nearly every day, it seems. However, this storm was not an everyday storm. A few minutes later, we heard the wind hit the house. We saw the 70-foot maple tree in our backyard buffeting and swaying in the gusts, seeming to blow to nearly a 90 degree angle. As the power flickered out, we braced ourselves for the downpour. Luckily, the storm gusts didn’t last long: after a few minutes, it returned to an ordinary, garden variety summer thunderstorm. But this one left disaster in its wake.
Just a few miles down the road, the band Cheap Trick and 10,000 screaming fans at the Ottawa Bluesfest were also surprised by the intensity of the wind — the band enough so that they quickly decided to evacuate the stage in the middle of their set as their equipment started blowing away. Seconds later, they could hear the pipes POP! as the entire stage collapsed in the punishing, 100 km/h winds as you can see in this video (warning: the video is very loud!)
The thousands of music lovers at Bluesfest – including the Mayor of Ottawa — fled, understandably freaking out, in the driving rain and took shelter in the nearby War Museum. Once the rain subsided, the crowds headed home since, obviously, programming for the remainder of the evening at Bluesfest was canceled.
Miraculously, nobody was killed. There were several injuries, including Cheap Trick’s truck driver who suffered a punctured abdomen and a broken leg — and all of Cheap Trick’s equipment was lost. Bluesfest, the City and the Province are all investigating the collapse. The stage was built to withstand heavy winds and was inspected daily for structural integrity; it remains to be seen if there was a flaw with the structure or if the wind is solely to blame.
Unfortunately, we may see more of this kind of freak storm in the future. Environment Canada Climatologist Dave Phillips says that it’s the fact that our evenings aren’t cooling off the way they used to that caused this storm. If the air doesn’t cool down, it serves as the perfect “mate” for a cold front — when the cold air blasts in and meets the hot air mass, the two react violently and this is the kind of storm that results. And with climates getting warmer and warmer, this won’t be the last time. “This is really just a dress rehearsal of what we will see more likely in future,” he said.
Photo Credit: M.Gifford. on Flickr