The May Derecho

June 6, 2022

The storm warning gave about 30 minutes notice, though many people probably did not imagine the power of the coming wind and rain. The derecho blew through quickly, lasting perhaps 10-15 minutes, but the mark it left was significant. Uxbridge was later confirmed the site of an EF2 tornado that did heavy damage to homes and businesses in a west to east swath just north of Main street. Just a few blocks away from the worst damage, planters remained upright on front porches, with little evidence of what had just happened. The spotty nature of the damage was similar all across Durham, and power was down right from Whitby Shores up to the top of the Oak Ridges Moraine. 

DKI-CRCS dispatcher Jorja Cooper was on call for the weekend. Her family was out of town visiting friends, and she was back at home after conducting a site inspection that morning. At 1:30pm, her phone buzzed with the severe weather alert and not long after, the storm hit. 

“The calls started almost immediately,” said Cooper. “The first claim came in at 1:59pm.” 

What followed was an intense stretch of work. Calls came in so fast that Cooper just started accepting each claim, knowing they’d have to be triaged later. Cooper had joined DKI-CRCS in October of 2021, and had barely been on the job six months. However, she arrived with eight years of experience in restoration and knew the industry well. Her quick work handling the incoming calls laid the foundation for DKI-CRCS’s response following the storm. 

A core team gathered at the office, and an email went out to staff asking anyone who was available to consider coming in to help with the response. 

“Every Project Manager came in to help,” said Cooper. 

Project Manager Kaz Silininkas was already on his way back to the Durham region after attending a friend’s wedding in Niagara on the Lake. 

“My phone got the weather warning as we were driving through downtown Toronto,” said Silininkas. “There was some wind and rain where we were, but nothing like what hit in other places.

“About 45 minutes later, I got the email asking extra staff to come in to the office.”

By the time he arrived at the office, things were already well in motion. The on-call line was ringing non-stop. Cooper would answer each call, and then help delegate out the next steps for handling the claims. 

“As people started arriving at the office, everyone was checking in on me to make sure I was ok,” said Cooper. “Some people went out to get food for us, and the owners ordered in meals too.”

Silininkas and the other Project Managers helped group the claims by area and then went out into the field to assess damage and triage the response. Silininkas covered a huge territory from Bowmanville and Courtice across to Whitby, and up to Cavan and Burketon.

“You’d get pockets of damage in places,” said Silininkas. Some stretches would look untouched, and then clusters of trees would be snapped in half, or barns would be blown down. 

“Clients said it was like a freight train, that it lasted 10 minutes,” said Silininkas. “Who would think this amount of damage could come from one storm.”

Everyone worked from the time the storm hit through to Tuesday morning, handling the 245 incoming claims in the 60-hour span before handing things over to the regularly scheduled admin staff. 

From there, Cooper, Silininkas and the others who had worked on the weekend shifted gears and continued to triage and follow up on claims, speaking with clients and making sure the most time sensitive damage was addressed as quickly as possible. Tradespeople had started right away, with one arborist team bringing their crane truck all the way from Niagara region.  

“I teamed up with my PM, Bruce, and we started sorting out the needs of each client,” said Cooper. “Most of our clients are in Uxbridge. I stayed at the office to coordinate for Bruce so he could get out and assess each place quickly and efficiently.”

As anyone in the region knows, the work will continue for a long time, but what was immediately evident both at DKI-CRCS and across Durham region was how everyone pulled together to help each other. 

“People quickly realized this wasn’t about them, that other people might have it worse,” said Silininkas. “Everywhere I went to check in on clients, neighbours were helping to clear downed trees, or sharing food, just looking to help out however they could.”

We’re proud of our team at DKI-CRCS, and of every community in Durham region. We’ll continue working to restore your homes and businesses until the work is done. 

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