On the weekend of October 26th, we had heard there was going to be another heavy rainstorm coming over the lake and hitting the area where we have the Love Shack. Instead of going for the weekend we decided that we would go up for the day, leaving the fur babies at home and close up for the season.
It was a few weeks early than planned but with rain being the steady forecast for the next few weeks there was no point in dealing with the mud and having to keep the dogs in the house.
And so we adventured up and emptied the frigs, stripped the beds, and blew out the water lines, set the mouse traps and packed up the Summer toys. Eight hours of work later the cottage was closed up for the season.
We spent a little time with the last of our neighbors who were still open as they packed up too. We said our goodbyes and left feeling the sadness that seems to come each year when we close up on our last weekend.
I did the silly thing that I always do and thank our lady of the care she provides to us each season and blew her a kiss and locked the door.
As we drove off the sky was turning grey and it started to rain. We made it back to the city before the rain had started back home.
The next day we saw pictures on the News of some flooding of roads in the beach area and roads of other towns. In a few days, the water had receded and all was back to normal.
Then came Halloween Night. The weather report was calling for heavy rain and high winds. The lake area was under a serve weather warning. The News started predicting winds of ninety kilometers and a high risk of flooding. But we had storms before and the weather predictions have never carried through.
I got worried and Husband said, we have had bad storms before and the cottage is always fine.
Halloween night went well at home. We have over a hundred and fifty kids who faced the wind and rain and showed up at the door to do Trick or Treating.
The next night I was watching the News who covered the storm and I got concerned.
The News was showing a cottage around the bend from us that had fallen into the lake. They showed flooding, retaining walls broken and fallen into the lake and roads were washed out. I went from concerned to full out worried and wanted to go check on the house. Husband said, “you’re overreacting but if it makes you feel better, we’ll go up in the morning”.
And so the journey to check on the Love Shack began.
When we first hit the country roads we saw some branches down along the way. When we got close to the Grand River, the banks of the river were no longer defined and the water from the river was in the farmer’s fields. The small islands in the river were underwater.
We looked at each other and didn’t say a word.
As we turned on to the main road that took us to the lake, we saw full sizes Maple Trees turned over and shingles missing off of houses and full roofs missing off of barns. The damage we were seeing was worse than the tornado damage we saw two years ago.
Once we made it to the stop sign on Lakeshore road, both are reactions were the same.
” What the hell happened!”
The boat launch was gone. It had been tapped off with danger signs. We came around the bend and in the cove were full-size Maple Trees uprooted. The first house we passed on the lakesides whole lawn was covered in stones and boulders that had been carried in from the lake. But the strangest thing we saw was the debris along the side of the road. Not the side of the road next to the lake but the other side across from the lake.
Looking at the houses on the lakeside of the road we saw water under the houses. I said to Husband ” Man that rain must have really come down. Look at the flooding.”
Now I have to admit at this part I was getting scared. We pulled on the road leading into the Love Shack and there were people out cleaning up braches and limps down on their properties.
When we pulled into the driveway the first thing we did was look up. The roof was fine. We walked the property and found no damage to the outside of the house and believe it or not, not a branch down from our trees.
We went in and checked the inside. It was bone dry. The pilot light was still on in the Cast Iron Stove. The only upset was the Rubbermaid Garbage cans on the back deck had been blown over.
The lady was fine!
We checked on our neighbor’s houses and called them to let them know we were fine and from what we could see from the outside, their houses were ok too. The yards were flooded but they could get into the houses. I told them, there was lots of water, mud, and branches down. They said they were on their way too.
Before we headed back home we decided to go over and look at the lake. That’s when I felt the tears well up in my eyes. I stepped out of the truck into ankle-deep water.
Chris the farmer who had spent his life there was out with his equipment leveling the three roads that were there to the other cottages. The roads were a mess and un-driveable.
We spoke with him and he shared the horror that had happened.
He showed us where eighteen-foot concrete reinforced with rebar retaining walls had fallen into the lake. Around the bend where we could not get to, was where the house that had fallen into the lake.
The beach which was normally fifteen feet wide was still underwater. The retaining wall that he had added two weeks prior on top of the pre-existing retaining wall was not only knocked over but was moved to many areas of the road. So was the original retaining wall.
The cottages along the lake had their doors and windows blown open by the water and had flooded and moved the furniture around in the houses. Boats were sitting on other people’s lawns. Concert blooks were sitting in the road that had been under houses.
A sixty-foot Malpe Tree fell on top of one of the cottages and came through the roof.
Chris told us the water from the lake had come across three roads with cottages on them and made it to Lakeshore Road and that was why there was debris along the road. The water was still sitting under the houses.
We learned from Chris that the water level of the lake went up five feet above normal and there were sixteen-foot waves that come off of the water with wind speeds for the first time in the hundred years it had been recorded had hit hurricane four levels.
I had seen this damage before. On TV. Never in real life. It’s still hard to comprehend what the water can do.
As we left to head back to the city, we were in a traffic jam of the co-cottagers heading to the lake. Because they could not drive on the roads they were parked and walking in carrying shop vacs and garbage bags along with cleaning supplies to get into their beloved cottages.
It was heartbreaking.
If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would never believe the story when I got told it in the Spring.
What made me decide the weekend before to go and close up the cottage and put all the yard and garden stuff away. I have no idea.
The irony of all this is, the last thing we did on October 26, was book to have the cottage lifted in the Spring. She is getting concert pads and additional blocks to give her extra support on May 1, 2020.
The cottages along the lake that faired the best, had the same footing we had just ordered.
Our lady is yet again fine. She was first untouched by the tornado two years ago and she is fine again after this horrific storm.
Each year we learn a little more about cottage life. The good and the bad.
Thankfully none of our neighbors were physically hurt. But our hearts go out to the ones who had damage done by the Storm of the Century. For the privacy and respect of our co-cottagers, I did not post the pictures of the damages done to our co-cottagers homes.