I awakened to a loud crack coming from our backyard. There followed the sound of wood tearing and popping, and finally a decisive thud.
It was only then that I knew, without looking, that the tree of my youth, our 150-year-old Ironwood, nicknamed Carmen Miranda for her natural sway in the centre and spray of leaves on top, had succumbed to the great ice storm of 2013.
As a child I swung from her branches, carved initials into her bark and held tea parties under her leaves. There was a small aperture in the base of the tree—a magical bolthole as it were— where chipmunks and red squirrels sought refuge from predators.
Ultimately, though, she was one tree among many, and Leaside lost much more during the big freeze.
For example, the owner of The Bagel House on Bayview, Jessi Sahdra saw $25,000 worth of food spoil in the four days his store went black. “None of the fridges and freezers were working,” he says, adding, “All my customers who ordered party platters for the holiday had to do without because they’d gone bad.”
Ever resourceful, Sahdra made do by baking bread in wood stoves, and siphoning enough power from McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon and Grill next door to keep light bulbs burning.
For De La Mer owners Dave Owen and Blake Edwards, trying to transfer fish and seafood from their Bayview location, where lights were flickering, to their store on Roncesvalles, which was unaffected, proved to be darkly comedic. “As soon as we’d transport the product to our Roncesvalles place, the power on Bayview would go back on, but the minute we turned back onto Bayview, it would go off again,” Blake recalls with a chuckle.
The good news is that once everything was back to normal, Christmas Eve turned into their busiest day ever.
Meanwhile, three days into the storm, with the inside of her house at a frigid 10 degrees, radiators frozen, and pipes close to bursting, stressed-out McRae Dr. resident Zelia Garland received a call from Andy Elder, the owner of Grilltime on Laird, offering to provide her with food.
Since Elder’s shop had not suffered any power outage, he was able to cook a couple of small beef roasts and two turkey breasts.
“He even made stuffing,” notes Garland, a mother of two. “Because of Andy we actually managed to have Christmas dinner with neighbours and family, and that’s when we appreciated what the day really means.”
Garland donated whatever food had not been eaten to shelters.
Other residents had more trouble embracing the holiday spirit. Some held pools to determine when a fire, Hydro, or police vehicle might finally show up on their streets. Still more drowned their sorrows at Corks bar on the second floor of Longo’s supermarket on Laird Dr. By the second day of the storm, business was especially brisk.
Dom Badali, of MacNaughton Dr., noted with amusement that CP24 news trucks arrived to document the presence of fallen tree branches on car roofs, faster than Hydro did.
And for some, problems persisted after the storm had passed, including dangling power lines, and cracked and broken pipes inside the house.
In the end, while not all Leasiders may have welcomed Christmas morning by singing a joyful song, they did show remarkable generosity toward each other, as well as a laudable survival instinct.