The scene in the backyard of a residence located southwest of Clifton Blvd.
Lakewood was battered Friday night by severe weather that hit its northern edge hardest.
A combination of high winds, large hail, and rain struck just prior to 9:00 p.m. and generated numerous calls to the city’s police and fire dispatch regarding downed trees and power lines.
The first report of damage concerned a fallen tree at Clifton Blvd. and West 117th St. Fire personnel ordered to the scene delayed their departure for several minutes due to poor visibility caused by the ongoing storm.
Within moments, a deluge of other weather-related damage was reported:
- The intersection of Clifton Blvd. and West Clifton Blvd. was blocked because of fallen trees and electrical wires which ignited a fire in the street.
- A tree struck the house at 1055 Wilbert Rd.
- The utility pole at the intersection of Wyandotte Ave. and Athens Ave. caught fire.
- Someone was trapped in an elevator between the 10th and 11th floors of The Carlyle.
- Tree strikes occurred at the houses at 17900 and 17849 Lake Rd.
- A house was on fire near the intersection of Webb Rd. and Clifton Blvd.
Difficult balancing act for fire department
To get an appreciation for the difficult job the fire department faced as it was overwhelmed by emergency calls, consider the house fire reported at Webb and Clifton.
Without an exact address, and in the darkness and rain, the fire crew had to find the fire. After many minutes of searching, they determined there was no fire. The elderly female driver who phoned in the incident likely saw the street fire and commotion at Clifton and West Clifton and mistook it.
The call had to be taken seriously due to its nature, but it turned out to be nothing. The fire crew was forced to waste valuable time searching for a fire that didn’t exist – a no-win situation.
Left in the lurch
Emergency response teams have little choice but to focus on the most serious situations first, and sometimes citizens can be left uncomfortably in the lurch.
The person stuck in the elevator at The Carlyle, for instance, was not an immediate priority. After a period of waiting, he pried open the elevator door, and climbed to safety.
Radio dispatch traffic in the first hour following the storm can be heard through the audio player located at the bottom of this post. The file is about 20 MB, and runs 50 minutes. Nothing has been edited out except the silences between responses. Communication between dispatch and police and fire is fairly continuous throughout. The .MP3 file can also be downloaded here.
The power lines behind your house
The electrical lines that are part of the backyard landscape near many Lakewood homes can be deadly. A primary power line running between Wyandotte and Wascana broke loose during the storm and caused at least two garage fires.
The garage at 2084 Wyandotte caught fire after it came into contact with a downed power line.
Luckily, no one was killed or seriously injured during the storm. Dozens of trees fell over and several of them landed on houses. Wires and trees fell Friday night and throughout Saturday. Here are some photos of the damage the morning after the storm. A photo gallery can be viewed here.
One of the first calls the city received during the storm occurred after a tree fell into 1055 Wilbert.
The brick house at 17849 Lake Rd. was gashed open by a falling tree.
One of the nicest looking brick houses on Lake Rd. south of Clifton Blvd. was hit by a tree.
A giant crane was in front of this damaged West Clifton Rd. home removing huge tree limbs from the backyard.
Damage to a home in the Clifton Park area
Warning sirens and replacement trees
Considering a severe weather warning was issued at least as early as 11:00 a.m. on Friday, it is curious that the city failed to sound the severe weather sirens. Even as late as 8:00 p.m. weather radar freely available on the Internet showed that the city was in the path of a nasty storm. Was someone asleep at the switch? It seems like it.
With a decent number of city trees destroyed during the storm, it will be interesting to see how quickly they move to replant them. It will also be interesting to see if the city follows through on their long talked about plan to permit residents to take advantage of their pricing to purchase trees. Here’s the city’s price list (.pdf) for the trees they purchased for the most recent planting season. They cost about $200 each.
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