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Damage in Sarnia 'the worst I've seen:' Bluewater Power CEO

Tara Jeffrey Janice McMichael-Dennis says it’s the worst she’s seen.
The scene at Ferndale and Oakdale in Sarnia. (Scott Stephenson photo)

Tara Jeffrey

Janice McMichael-Dennis says it’s the worst she’s seen.

“I can’t remember a storm like this in my history — in terms of infrastructure damage,” the president and CEO of Bluewater Power told The Journal, following a severe storm that ripped through Sarnia-Lambton Thursday afternoon, prompting a tornado warning for the area and leaving widespread damage in its wake.

Downed trees and power lines littered the city, as crews worked around the clock to restore power and respond to emergencies, officials said.

A large uprooted tree fell on a Nelson Street home during Thursday's severe weather in Sarnia. (Ronny D'Haene photo)

At one point, 17,000 customers were without power, McMichael-Dennis said — that’s one out of every two customers. By Friday morning, less than 1,000 were still without power, mainly in critical areas hardest hit. She warned that residents should be cautious of power lines that may still be on the ground in some areas.

“We’re all hands on deck… but we’re talking significant, significant damage, that needs to be fixed for, say, 15 customers,” she explained, pointing to 11 ‘critical areas’ including parts of Point Edward, Rosedale Ave., and the hardest hit area in Alvinston, where about 400 people remained without power Friday.

“We believe there was definitely a tornado that went through there.”

Downed trees were scattered across the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club, which announced it would be closed indefinitely following the damage, while large trees toppled onto homes, buildings, vehicles, and onto the streets, where residents gathered to assess the damage and help clean up. At this point, no injuries have been reported.

Extensive damage following Thursday's storm has closed the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club. (Photo by Ronny D'Haene)

The City of Sarnia says it will deploy additional resources to help with brush and debris cleanup and residents are reminded that instances of downed or damaged trees, including hanging limbs, on City property can be reported via the City’s online contact form at, or by calling 519-332-0330.

At least one local business, PMO Construction, has offered to use their equipment to assist residents with tree removal and fence repair, free of charge. In a Facebook post, the company asked that any donations be made to the Humane Society or Noelle’s Gift.

“I sit back and marvel, but also hold my breath,” McMichael-Dennis said of her team of about 50 on hand, while waiting for additional crews from other areas.

“These crews are working with high voltage electricity – it is unforgiving,” she said, adding that utility line work is among the most dangerous jobs in the world.

“Every second matters.”

There hasn’t been a storm like this in Sarnia since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, McMichael-Dennis said, when veteran lineman, 45-year-old Mike Leach, died while working to repair fallen power lines.

“It’s heartwarming to see this team working so hard, but also frightening,” she said. “We just want everyone to get home safe.”

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